Au Lac is a Vietnamese Restaurant located on the main restaurant strip of Dickson, a ten-minute drive from Canberra Central. My girlfriend and I wanted to try vegan food in Canberra so we were looking forward to eating at Kingsland Vegan Restaurant for dinner but they turned out to be closed for the holidays! Luckily, Au Lac was open just around the corner so we were all set for dinner!
Their website says that Au Lac is the legendary ancestral kingdom of the Vietnamese people and their food incorporates Buddhist ideas. In essence, they are “all about fresh, quality and healthy vegetarian food”.
We ordered the Mushroom Fritters to start our meal off. The battered mushrooms were served with sweet and sour sauce as well as a side of shredded carrot and parsley. They reminded me of the tempura mushrooms you can get in Hobart, Tasmania when there’s a festival on. Both have a very light and fluffy batter and fresh, perfectly-cooked mushroom on the inside. Definitely worth a try!
My girlfriend ordered the Farmer Hot Pot Rice to satisfy her craving for claypot rice. We were delighted to find a vegan version of this dish! This hot pot had mock meats that were very convincing, right down to the fatty bits you usually find on char siew (Chinese BBQ pork). In addition, there was bamboo shoots, lily flowers, shiitake mushrooms and dried dates in soy sauce. My girlfriend found the dish to be very satisfying but mentioned that she wished the rice was a little crispier on the bottom.
I ordered an old favourite of my brother and I: Vietnamese Broken Rice. In this vegan version, they replaced the egg pudding with a “crab meat pate” and BBQ soy meat in place of the pork cutlet. The shredded pork skin was replaced by tofu strips and the dish was served with the usual sweet chilli sauce and soup. I found the BBQ soy meat very convincing and pleasantly sweet. The shredded tofu “pork skin” tasted exactly like the real thing, right down to the inclusion of the powdered rice to match the texture. If I hadn’t known this was vegan, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Unfortunately the crab meat pate was a little out of place but overall, a very satisfying and convincing dish.
Au Lac was a great surprise to us. We wondered if there was a reason it was open during the holiday season and we found it to be because of their delicious food, well-deserving of the high praise it gets in reviews and ratings. For anyone visiting Canberra, vegan or not, I highly recommend giving Au Lac a try.