Kirra, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads

Saturday 17 May 2014


Asian-style goodness a winning formula at Mermaid Beach

Is thirty minutes too far to drive for takeaway “Fried Tofu with Seasonal Vegetables”?  When the destination is the Gold Coast’s Tian Ran, and the food comes complete with a heart-warming dollop of goodness and tranquility, the emphatic and unequivocal answer is “no”.

You feel it immediately as you enter the sliding doors even before you encounter the smiling face of Eric. There is something special going on here other than the food. The aesthetics are simple, the place is scrupulously clean, and the aura is glowing and happy. You feel instantly relaxed. You know the food will be good – and that instinct is quickly rewarded.

Part of the Mermaid Beach landscape for 12 years now, locals will know Tian Ran by the yellow neon “vegetarian” sign on the Gold Coast Highway along that interesting sunset strip between Burleigh and Broadbeach. The menu has perhaps changed little in years, but when the formula works, why bother? The food is full–flavoured Taiwanese-style and 100% vegan: totally unpretentious, just pure tasty goodness.

The man ahead of me in the queue has but one thing on his mind. “Mee Goreng?” asks Eric. The man smiles and they have a friendly chat. Eric knows them all by name and it’s not long before he has me feeling part of this friendly club of takeaway regulars.

The menu is extensive. The Salt and Pepper Tofu ($11.80) is good. The Stir Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts ($13.80) is very, very good. The Olive Fried Rice ($9.80) is excellent. And the Thai Style Curry Beef ($13.80) – a generous dish of mushroom-based beef chunks and vegetables in a sweet laksa-style soup with hints of lemongrass, ginger, coriander and chili – is one you will love but need help to finish.

The Chinese characters for Tian Ran (“nature”) are embossed on the swinging red door leading to the kitchen. There’s no animal products, onion, garlic, or MSG in any of the dishes. As the “Beyond Meat” phenomenon gathers momentum, Tian Ran is well and truly ahead of the game. The “pork” “beef” “chicken” and “seafood” dishes are all made from protein substitutes such as soy, wheat, yam, seaweed and mushroom. It’s authentic enough to keep the meat-lovers happy and healthy and tasty enough to keep the vegans coming back for more.

I visit again on a Friday night and the place is buzzing. Even the banquet room to the side is alive with the chatter of happy diners. I order the Mee Goreng Indonesian style noodles ($10.80). It hits the spot. My guest makes an excellent choice with the Salt and Pepper Chicken ($12.80). We sip Chinese tea – poured from a teapot that gives deep satisfaction from its unashamed ordinariness. There’s no arty decorative attempts or upmarket allusions here. And that feels good. And the bill at the end, even better.

A word of warning: if you hover near the front counter for too long, you will succumb. The fridge is full of tubs of Coco Luscious Ice-cream in every intoxicating gourmet flavour. I settle on the Organic Blueberry. Sweet glorious heaven! Worth every cent of the $13 splurge.

Address: Shop 8 / 2462 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach.

Phone: (07) 5572 0678


Facebook: Tian-Ran-Vegetarian-Restaurant

Hours: Open every night for dinner and takeaway, 5.30pm to 9.30pm

In a nutshell: A Buddhist gem on the glitter strip.