141 Queen Street, Melbourne (map)
Open Mon-Fri, lunch only
Time for another entrant in the King/Bourke Quest, the never-ending search for decent lunchtime fare within a quick walking distance from the corner of King Street and Bourke Street (the gastronomic wasteland where my office is located).
Fondly referred to by many simply as "Buddhist Temple", Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery is many things: an art gallery, a tea house, a vegetarian restaurant, classrooms, a meditation hall, a shrine and a gift shop! In a particularly busy stretch of Queen Street (between the Turf Bar and CQ) it is a high-ceilinged, refined oasis of tranquility.
My most recent visit was a few weeks ago, with Gumby and her husband D-man. Upon arrival I immediately ordered a pot of the Temple's most excellent cumquat tea. Oh, this cumquat tea is so so nice my friends... hot and sweet yet piquant. Heh, piquant cumquat is fun to say. :)
All of the dishes at FGY Buddhist Temple are vegetarian, many of them with faux meat. The rotating daily specials are served in bento boxes. I had the Thai curry, and marveled at the texture of the "meat".
Gumby-chan had the fried "fish" with a Penang sauce. Again, it had a remarkably authentic texture. Some of my fellow omnivores out there may raise their eyebrows at some of the "meat" on offer at the Temple, but let me assure you that it tastes good.
D-man had the fried noodles, which as well as being deliciously slimy had a great smoky flavour. All of the dishes are around the $8-$8.50 mark, and I'm yet to have a dud dish at the Temple.
Highly recommended - though if you're going on a Friday or in a group you may want to phone ahead and book... but be sure to request a table in the lovely high-ceilinged main hall and not in one of the poky, fluorescent-lit back rooms!