Friday, November 03, 2006

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant, Canberra

Tuesday night brought new experiences for my workmates and I, in the form of a staff dinner at Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant. With the exception of Badde Manors Cafe in Glebe I don't think I've been to a wholly vegetarian restaurant. It's not that I'm anti-vegetarian food, I just don't have many vegetarian friends to lead me there.

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant takes things one step further and sells mock meat. Mock meat is an ancient Chinese-Buddhist tradition, constructing faux-flesh from soy and gluten.

The menu reads like a conventional chinese restaraunt, categorized according to appetizers, soups and vegetables, tofu, seafood, chicken/duck, beef/lamb/pork and curry dishes.

We started at the top and ordered entrees of spring rolls, rice paper rolls and vegetarian drumsticks. Unfortunately I didnt get a picture of the drumsticks but they really were shaped like chicken drumsticks, with wooden sticks instead of bones. The spring rolls and rice paper rolls were fairly standard Chinese restaurant fare.

Next to hit our lazy susan was the Ginger Chicken, and I was quite impressed. It really did taste like chicken. The texture was a little off but the taste was right on the mark. The dish as a whole came together well with a good helping of ginger in the sauce and a bit of a crunch to the veges.

After the Ginger chicken, we were presented with Sizzling Mongolian Lamb on Hot Plate (top) and Roast Duck (bottom).

The texture of the lamb actually was like the texture of meat, but the taste was something else. Both the lamb and the duck had an aftertaste that reminded me of burnt sugar. Initially I thought it was the sauce, but both dishes had the same characteristic. Strange.

I thought the texture of the duck was quite like eggplant. We had ordered Pan Fried Eggplant cooked in delicious spicy sauce and I had to clarify if we actually were eating the duck, or the eggplant. We also ordered two other vegetable dishes, Mixed Vegetables with Satay Sauce and The Bird's Nest. I only tasted the bird's nest, and it was great. Capsicum, corn, broccoli, cauliflour, cashews and minted peas were served inside a shredded potato basket. The minted peas really added extra flavour to the dish, it was definitely my pick of all that we ate.

My least favourite dish was the Crispy Honey Fish. Seaweed paper was used to simulate that fishy taste, but it was a little over the top for me, I didn't even bite enough to comment on the texture. The crispy honey part was good though, so sticky and sweet that it stuck to my teeth.

And then somewhere in the middle was Crispy Spare Ribs in sweet and sour sauce. I was disappointed that this dish didn't come out on little wooden bones, like the chicken drumsticks, but otherwise it was fairly stock standard sweet and sour pork; a nice tang in the sauce and not a whole lot of (mock) meat inside the batter.

Would I go back? Probably not, the food and service weren't any better than what you'd find in a standard Chinese takeaway, so I'd probably stick to meat-based meals. But I could be tempted to try mock meat again (maybe not mock fish).

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant
Shop 5, Dickson Plaza
28 Challis Street
(02) 6262 9350

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