Mei’s Kitchen (https://www.meiskitchenorlando.com/) is a brand-new Taiwanese restaurant that opened less than a month ago in East Orlando, in the Publix plaza on University Drive and Dean Road, right off State Road 417. It is two doors down from another restaurant I discovered and reviewed this year, Mark’s Jamaican Bar & Grill. So if you ever can’t decide between Jamaican and Taiwanese food (a situation that most people may never find themselves in, but I have a feeling I will often), this is the place to go.
As usual, friends on The Orlando Foodie Forum presented by Tasty Chomps on Facebook were even quicker to discover Mei’s Kitchen, and have been posting tantalizing photos and singing its praises for the last two or three weeks. I have been wanting to make it over there, and finally made it on Memorial Day, a rare Monday off work. I called in our takeout order as I was leaving the house, hopped on the 417, stopped into Publix for a few groceries, and my order was ready and bagged up when I got to Mei’s, about 20 minutes after making the call.
It’s a large and beautiful dining room in the unassuming shopping center, which they spent months completely refurbishing after the previous tenant, Chinese restaurant Pu Yi, closed. Sadly, the dining room was empty, but I was there before 5:00 PM on a Monday, Mei’s is still less than a month old and doesn’t seem to have much word of mouth yet, and of course there are COVID-19 concerns. I don’t plan to resume dining in restaurants anytime soon, but I’m still happy to order takeout to support locally-owned establishments, and I tip like I’m taking up one of their tables. And now for the word of mouth — I’m here to tell you that the food was terrific and a terrific bargain, and they could really use your business.
I had been dying to try the Taiwanese beef noodle soup ($10.95), and it ended up being one of the most delicious and satisfying noodle soups I’ve ever had. I was grateful they packed the broth (with beef) and the noodles (with finely-chopped cilantro and what I believe are pickled mustard greens) separately, so the noodles didn’t become a soggy, gloopy mess on my drive home.
I poured some of the broth and all of the beef into the noodle container with enough room to mix it around, and I still had lots of broth left over (which I’ll add my own noodles to). The beef was very tender, and I’m pretty sure it was brisket — one of my favorite cuts of beef.
It was so satisfying, and not nearly as salty as I expected. I’ve had countless bowls of pho, and I’ve finally started wading into the world of “fancy” (non-instant) ramen, but nothing could have prepared me for the perfection of Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Of course, as a librarian and a nerd, I had to research it further, and I found this Grub Street article that lists the best Taiwanese beef noodle soup locations in New York, with more background about the ingredients and cooking processes that make it so unique and special. The article says “[m]any consider it to be the national dish of Taiwan,” and I can see why!
The Taiwanese sausage fried rice ($7.95) wasn’t that different from other fried rice dishes I’ve enjoyed in the past, but its hard to go wrong with fried rice. I love lap cheong (AKA lạp xưởng in Vietnamese), dried Chinese pork sausage that is chewy and slightly sweet. It is one of my favorite ingredients in fried rice, and one that doesn’t get included often enough. This version of the dish wasn’t overly greasy or salty, and the rice had a nice chewiness to it. It was loaded with scrambled eggs, peas, and diced onion and carrot, in addition to the sausage.
We ordered so much food, I put the fried rice away after a tiny taste, only to devour it the following day after stirring in a little Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp, a versatile Szechuan condiment you can find any any Asian market. But here it is, pre-spicy chili crisping:
I hadn’t had softshell crabs in a long time, so I was happy to see a salt and pepper soft shell crab appetizer on the menu — two crispy fried crabs for $7.95. They were both bisected down the middle and came with a generous helping of delicious spicy mayo, which I love on sushi (and almost anything else) way more than I should. These weren’t greasy either, which is always a nice surprise.
Here’s a close-up of the fried crabs. I really appreciated that Mei’s uses those plastic takeout containers with plastic lids that snap into place. They are recyclable and dishwasher-safe, so we always clean and save these. They are perfect for food storage beyond their original use.
But wait, we aren’t done yet! My wife usually likes fluffy bao buns, so we ordered all three varieties of bao for her, not even realizing Mei’s Kitchen includes two bao in each order! We were expecting one of each kind of bao, so that was a nice surprise.
So we got traditional gua bao with braised pork belly, garnished with fresh cilantro, pickled mustard greens, and crushed roasted peanuts ($2.95 for two):
Fried pork belly bao with shredded cucumber and sesame seed dressing ($3.50 for two):
And fried shrimp bao with avocado and more of that spicy mayo ($3.95 for two):
As you can see, the bao came in regular styrofoam boxes.
It was a quite a feast that yielded plenty of leftovers, and this was actually our first time having Taiwanese food. If you like Chinese, you’ll love Taiwanese! I wish Mei’s Kitchen well. Most of Orlando’s best Chinese restaurants are all the way out on Colonial Drive (Peter’s Kitchen, Taste of Chengdu, Chuan Lu Garden), so this is somewhat closer to home. The food is excellent, the portions are generous, the dining room is new and nice, and the prices are extremely reasonable, so here’s that word of mouth Mei’s could definitely use. Give them a chance, and you won’t be sorry. I’d definitely recommend everything we tried, and they have a whole lot more to choose from as well.
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