If you start to see a pattern of me reviewing restaurants around the Kingsford way, you are indeed sensing a theme. My husband and I are houseminding for my parents who live in the Eastern Suburbs and we thought that while we were here, we might take advantage of the fascinating eatery studded strip of Anzac Parade.
Tea Inn is a Taiwanese Fast Food and Tea House that I haven't been to for years. It's just the order this one afternoon when we need to eat something sustaining but quickly. I don't eat McDonalds so this is the next best thing. It's full with students and young people no doubt from the nearby university.
Bubble Pearl tea is like the Coke of Asia, the chewy fat pearls of tapioca sucked up through the fat straws in a satisfying way. My husband loves these so we order the most interesting coffee combination: Pomegranate Coffee with pearls $3.80. We also ask what is good and authentically Taiwanese. The waitress suggest the Sa Cha Beef and rice ($8) and the deep fried chicken in salt and pepper with noodles ($8). For dessert we choose a shaved ice dessert topped with peanuts, sweet lotus seed and black plums for $5.80 (any of the sweet toppings can be ordered in a singular shaved ice for $4.80 each). The menu is huge and seafood dishes top the range at $14-$15 whilst other meats such as chicken or pork dishes are $12 and there are also Laksas ($9.5) and noodle dishes ($8) as well as 2 pages of drinks and desserts of the shaved ice variety.
There are even $5 dishes such as pork mince on rice for the truly frugal and a ridiculously cheap afternoon tea menu featuring dishes from $4.80-$7.50 which includes a drink.
Pomegranate Coffee with pearls $3.80
We've asked them to hurry as I need to make a beauty appointment and within minutes, our dishes are making their way to the table. The Pomegranate coffee is surprisingly delicious and lightly tinged pink. It's not particularly strong in pomegranate flavour though but it is good-it reminds me of Japanese iced coffee or coffee jelly. Curiously, the cups of water we ask for are a little salty in taste!
Sa Cha Beef with rice $8
The Sa Cha beef with rice arrives first and it is huge. Large pieces of tenderised beef and carrot, green capsicum, bok choy and onion in a rich, thick and slightly spicy sauce rest on a large bed of rice. It's a dish that even two could share, especially if you're having drinks. It's good and comforting although missing a bold or distinct flavour.
Deep fried chicken with salt and pepper and noodles (noodles pictured below) $8
The deep fried chicken comes with a pale brown, slight sweet sauce which is not particularly strong in flavour. The chicken pieces are a little disappointing, they're certainly freshly fried but mostly consist of batter, the way that some cheaper chinese takeaways or buffets take a shortcut. They're also missing the salt and pepper flavouring. My husband marvels at how they can get that much batter on top of such a small piece of chicken.
The accompanying soup noodles come in a large melamine bowl and they're wonderfully silky, the noodles just the right width. The broth has boiled eggs floating in it and it's gingery and scented with coriander and spring onion. I prefer the noodles themselves to the soup but that doesn't seem to matter. My husband protectively huddles over thie bowl reluctant to share. I have barely made a dent into the Sa Cha beef and I know that dessert is on it's way so the waitress gives me a container to take it away with me.
Shaved ice with black plums, peanuts and sweet lotus seeds $5.80
Our shaved ice dessert arrives and it's much larger than we expect, the deep square bowl of shaved ice covered with black plums, sweet bronzed peanuts and sweet lotus root and splashed with sweetened condensed milk. I take one spoonful and it seems all I can taste is ... preserved salty plums! You know the soft, black, pruney looking kind that you can buy in Chinese grocery stores wrapped up as a lolly but are actually salty and sweet? An acquired taste and one that I have yet to acquire. If I had realised that this was the Black plum on the menu I would've steered away as it completely overwhelms the delicate sweet peanut and lotus seed (my favourite). The parts without the black plum sauce are deliciously good but it's such a powerful presence, we feel like we have to leave most of it. Next time, we'll try milder flavours like taro or red bean with the sweet lotus seeds. And there will be a next time.
Tea Inn Taiwanese Fast Food and Tea House
311-313 Anzac Parade Kingsford
Tel: +61 (02) 9697 2789
Monday to Saturday: 11am-11pm
Sunday: Noon to 11pm