Kitchen Inn, 471 Elizabeth St , Melbourne. Phone: 3330 0023
Kitchen Inn – at peak times – is no doubt already as mad busy as Coconut House, just up Elizabeth St about a block.
Evidently, there is significant interest in this newish place’s specialty – the food of Sarawak, a state on Borneo in Malaysia.
That Kitchen Inn has created a buzz among Sarawakian students and expats of various kinds is eloquently and expertly testified to by bloggers Kimba’s Kitchen, Arrow Foodie and Yellow Eggs, whose reviews are no doubt far more authoritative than my own will be.
Nevertheless, it is with a keen sense of adventure that I hit the place for lunch.
In our world, anything that fosters regional specialties has a good chance of going to the top of the “to do” list. It’s not just food but also things like music and languages that are being sorely strained, often to the point of extinction, by the forces of globalisation.
It’s a small eating house with a bottleneck at the cash register, where people paying for their meals dodge staff delivering food to customers yet to eat – or pay.
The longish menu has some familiar names – Hainan chicken rice, Singapore fried vermicelli and nasi lemak.
But I wouldn’t expect them to be routine offerings – the Sarawak laksa, for instance, looks and sounds quite different to the norm.
From what I can gather, if Sarawak was a nation, the national dish might well be kolo mee, so that’s what I order.
The Wikipedia entry for the city of Kuching describes kolo mee as “egg noodles, flash-boiled, then classically served with crushed garlic and shallot, minced pork or beef, white vinegar, either vegetable oil, pork oil or peanut oil, and sliced barbecue pork known as char siu or beef”.
The kolo mee special, at $11, is $2.50 more than the regular, for which extra money you get three plump prawns. “Deal 4″ at $15 gets me kolo mee special with a bowl of “Special Soup”.
The soup’s broth has a quite intense and briny bitterness. It’s OK, I slurp it, but I won’t be in hurry to try it again.
The pork balls are tender tending to mushy, and delicious. The other meat is thin-sliced and has the delicacy and texture of lamb’s tongue.
I subsequently discover it’s actually pork liver.
Would I have ordered it had I known pork liver was involved?
Did I like it?
The kolo mee is fine – quite mildly seasoned, it’s much more interesting in the flavour department than it appears.
There’s a heap of thin house-made noodles, with just a enough juice/sauce at the bottom of the bowl to make the dish fly.
The prawns are OK but a bit of an irrelevancy.
The pork mince actually adheres quite well to the noodles, but predictably and delightfully the meal gets better as it is ending as there’s more juice, mince and roast pork to go in to every mouthful.
It’s an engaging taste overall – one I’ll inaccurately describe as “slightly smoky” because I can’t think a better way of putting it.
Maybe I’ll try No.31 - Marmite chicken ribs with rice.