Hey remember that time I lived in China and ate the most amazing Chinese vegetarian food? Yeah, me too. I love Chinese Australian vego food, but there are definitely some distinct differences, so I was super excited to hear that Gong De Lin, one of China's oldest and most awesome vegetarian restaurants, had come to Melbourne. Wendy canvassed her veg family members who claimed it was part of the brand, not some copy cat, and we immediately scheduled a visit to check it out.
Gong De Lin specialises in Shanghainese style food, and the menu is filled with all sorts of delicious goodies, lots of mushroom dishes and an awesome cold menu, which is definitely something I've been missing. If you've never tried the cold items on a mainland Chinese menu, I recommend it.
Wendy and I were immediately drawn to the 上海冷面, which literally translates to Shanghai Cold Noodles, but I'm not sure if that's their English name. Anyway, they are some fun noodles to eat and I love them very much. They are hand pulled and freshly made. They are usually served with an array of sauces so you can mix up whatever your favourite combination is. My favourite is soy sauce, sesame sauce, and chilli oil with a smattering of vinegar soy, which nearly brought Wendy and I to blows because she likes to use all of the vinegar soy.
Although the noodles are on the menu as a two person serving, we decided to supplement by sampling the mapo doufu. This was a great if disorienting version of this dish, mostly because I'm so used to eating mapo doufu in non-veg restaurants, where I ask for it without meat, so to get it with the little meaty bits was freaky. But delicious. I enjoyed this dish, though it was a little sweeter than I'm used to, mostly because Shanghainese food is often a little sweeter than Sichuanese food.
Gong De Lin is brand new in its Swanston Street position. The service was really delightful, with the waitstaff being very helpful letting us buy off menu (extra noodle portions) and very friendly. The menu is a little on the upper edge of a reasonable city lunch, at $38 for the two of us, with a little extra noodles each to take home for dinner.
Gong De Lin is located on top of Noodle Kingdom, and I think they share a kitchen which comes up via a food elevator that buzzes when the food arrives. This was annoying but easy to get used to.
And I'm going to get used to it. I definitely plan to return. As much as I love Enlightened Cuisine, I think this is probably my new favourite Chinese vego restaurant in Melbourne, and I'm very happy to have another choice when in the CBD.
Gong De Lin
Level 3, 264 Swanston Street
Open 10am-10pm 7 days
Get there on any train or just about any tram. Brightly lit, menus in English and Chinese. Access via an elevator, no stairs. Toilets are accessible. Ordering and paying can take place at the table, though they're fairly tightly packed.
Other reviews: Milkbar Mag