Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery is the art gallery of the International Buddhist College of Victoria – but most Melbourne foodies know it as FYG Gallery, the home of great Buddhist vegetarian food.

The tea house is not an easy place to find unless you know about it, as the street signage only indicates the presence of the gallery. As you climb up the steps the imposing foyer has an intimidating religious feel and all that mystical marble belies the warmth of the tea house inside.

It’s been about four years since I last had lunch at FYG Gallery and to my disappointment the menu has changed significantly. Before they used to have bento boxes and lots of hot lunch dishes served with rice – I remember a particular sweet and sour ‘chicken’ with fondness. Now the menu has been whittled down to dumplings, three noodle dishes and a huge and incongruous assortment of Western-style desserts.

Unfortunately at 1pm the crystal dumplings had already sold out ($7 for 4) so out of the three noodle dishes I decided to try the one served with ‘BBQ pork’ along with tofu, bok choy, tofu mince, preserved vegetables and bean sprouts ($9.50).

Now I know that running a restaurant is not really the International Buddhist College of Victoria‘s core business, but for a lunch hour they were really slow.  When I arrived the place was half full, there was one waitress serving and many gimlet-eyed diners looking like they were suffering from hunger pangs.  I waited a while then went up to the counter to place my order. Then waited some more for my noodles to be served to me as I watched the bowl sit on the counter.

In my haste to start eating I’m afraid I only took the time to take one fuzzy shot of my noodles. As you can see, pretty good.

The tastiness of this dish almost knocked FGY Gallery over to HOT. The noodles were springy and soaked in some soy-based broth and I loved all the different tastes and textures mixed together. Though mock BBQ pork tastes and looks nothing like the real, meaty-thing.

However, the limited menu, non-existent service and slowness of the kitchen serving a lunchtime crowd means that overall, I won’t be rushing back to FGY Gallery. Such a shame to strike an old favourite from the list.