Gold Coast – Tian Ran Vegetarian Restaurant

Surfer's Paradise - Tian Ran Vegetarian Restaurant 1

As the name suggested, Tian Ran is a Chinese restaurant. The word means “natural” in Chinese. We weren’t planning to try Chinese food, but on Christmas Day there weren’t many options in town and we prefer not to repeat what we have eaten. So we decided to give it a try, and we also want to check out the local Asian supermarket which is on the opposite side of the street.

Surfers Paradise - Tian Ran Vegetarian Restaurant 2

The restaurant is on a quiet street, although it requires some walking after you get off the tram. It isn’t very big, just one medium sized room with some tables, on many of which bright green table cloths are on. Several Chinese-style lanterns hang high on the ceiling, together with shiny fuzzy Christmas decoration. Although the paintings on the wall indicates strongly the Buddhist background of the owner, the restaurant was playing merry Christmas choirs happily sung by kids.

We were greeted cordially by a merry Chinese man, whose laughter was a bit contagious. I was always glad to see happy people serving food, which made us all relaxed and in good mood. As always we wanted to try a few of our favorite dishes that we have loved in China, so we ordered those.

Surfer's Paradise - Tian Ran Vegetarian Restaurant 3

Deep friend wontons. They totally didn’t look like wontons I have seen growing up in China, not very pretty but not too bad with the sauce.

Surfer's Paradise - Tian Ran Vegetarian Restaurant 4

Gong Bao mock chicken. Unfortunately except the peanut as ingredient, which is one of the important elements in this dish, this one here tasted nothing like the original we expected. It was heavy on soy sauce, and that didn’t balance well with sweet and sour taste. The other vegetables dominating the plate made the dish a bit odd. As a dish it wasn’t too bad, but certainly it was not Gong Bao chicken.

Surfer's Paradise - Tian Ran Vegetarian Restaurant 5

Fish flavored eggplant. Originally an authentic Sichuan dish that features spices used in preparing fish dishes, together with deep fried eggplant pieces, this dish was rendered more like a stew of mock fish cubes (never used in the original version), eggplant chunks with other vegetables in casserole. It was ok, although a bit greasy. And again, it was nothing like its name.

Surfer's Paradise - Tian Ran Vegetarian Restaurant 6

Deep fried banana with vanilla ice-cream. Honey insisted that I try this dessert simply “because it is served in almost every Chinese restaurant in Sweden”, although it is not common in China. It wasn’t too bad, but Honey claimed it would have been better with syrup.

After our meal we were super full. As someone who has tasted numerous delicious vegan dishes in China, I regret to say that Tian Ran was not at all authentic. They’re more or less China-town style, offering dishes prepared by non-professional cooks using locally available vegetables and condiments, quite different from their originals but still retaining the original name. Even the Asian supermarkets abroad nowadays do carry a lot of spices, sauces and condiments exactly as those sold in Asia, many older cooks abroad still maintain their old way of cooking dating from a time when sources were scarce. The only good thing was that vegetables are generously provided in every dish, but that also made every dish quite identical. Or perhaps they’re simply catering to local taste. Maybe the Aussies here don’t really appreciate authentic Chinese food? I have no idea. Either way, I think Tian Ran a nice place to try if you want something a bit different, when you’re traveling in Gold Coast for a longer vacation.

Address: 8/2464 Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach QLD 4218, Australia
Phone: +61 7 5572 0678