Dining last Friday night at a very busy New Flavour in a very busy Balmoral, the dishes were taking a little longer than usual to appear from the kitchen. My one year old was not happy about this. She had food envy: she watched in barely disguised fury as mounds of steaming hand-cut noodles, platters of fat white dumplings and iron plates of sizzling beef were delivered to neighbouring tables. The barely disguised fury turned into open hatred at the injustice of it all, so I scooped her up and out into the night for a bit of distraction till our food arrived. Next door, I stalked the constant stream of dishes leaving the street-front kitchen of My Kitchen Express Taiwanese Cuisine to head upstairs to customers, and vowed I’d be back to sample them.
The open, street-front kitchen is the legacy of this location having previously been a fish and chop shop for many years. The new owners have, seemingly oddly when you first consider it, opted to keep deep fried on the menu – fish and chips, fried chicken, washed down with half a litre of fizz if you opt for a combo. But that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here to have a crack at what the business calls, “the foods one would find at a Taiwanese night market”: an array of quickly prepared, piping hot dishes that span Chinese, Japanese and Taiwan’s own cuisine.
I hadn’t clicked till last Friday that My Kitchen Express isn’t just a takeaway joint – the staircase to the left leads to a large dining room upstairs that is double the size of most others in Balmoral. Help yourself to cutlery and roasted barley tea and sit back for about 2 minutes till your food arrives from downstairs. Yesterday for lunch we asked what was good on the menu – we wanted something spicy, and a soup with dumplings. Kung Pao Chicken was most enthusiastically encouraged, so we ordered it. I was adamant I wanted the Hot and Sour Soup with Dumplings, although the shop madam didn’t look too convinced about my choice – trying to steer me towards the teriyaki-style dishes which are so, so not me. She was right, in a way – the soup wasn’t the finest example. Nice balance of hot and sour, but there was some mysterious, slightly wet dog aroma about it – the kind you can get from fish sauce if you’re not accustomed to it. Could have been the black fungus, perhaps, the crunchy texture of which was, however, a delight. Kung Pao chicken was spot-on: spiked with plenty of dried red chilli while at the same time sweet and salty and littered with roasted peanuts. The orange segment that is served alongside your food is a nice way to refresh you palate at the end of the meal.
A very filling lunch yesterday totalled $18.50. I’ll certainly be back to explore the menu further.
My Kitchen Express Taiwanese Cuisine, 543 Dominion Rd, Balmoral, phone 6309600.