Tea +, Burwood

Saturday, April 11, 2015

With all the salted craze that's been going around for some time, it comes as no surprise that salted milk froth has become a popular trend of late, particularly in the wide, colourful realm of Asian drinks. It's a gastronomic flavour combination which seems unusual, but works surprisingly well. Tea + in Burwood is a case in point, offering a signature SeaSalt Milk Foam which combines all things frothy and salty in one.

If you're a regular food instagrammer, you may have come across a snap or two of their House Special Plant Milk Tea in your feed. Described as a fulfilment of 'visual and tasting satisfaction' (according to their website) it uncannily resembles a cute plant in a giant glass mug. Depending on what flavour tea you opt for, underneath the oreo 'soil' sits a thick white layer of SeaSalt cream, floating atop a sea of milky, pastel coloured tea.

The ordering system is DIY, with forms in both English and Taiwanese on each table which are filled out yourself and handed in behind the counter. The interior of the eatery, sitting on a side street on the far quieter end of Burwood Road, is a cheerful pale teal and simply furnished with white chairs and no-fuss cutlery holders. The space itself is quite small and it's not unusual to find a waiting list outside on busy days.

On the menu is a mix of different Asian cuisines, from smaller snacks such as Takoyaki and Lotus Root Chips - for those who fill up on the drinks - to larger rice dishes. Japanese Tamago, a sweet egg omelette, is one of the more intriguing items, served with toppings such as tuna, corn and pork floss; Taiwanese-style Egg Pancake is similarly as intriguing. Most main dishes come in 'set meal' style: a meat-based main with rice, vegetables and a mound of corn, with choices including Curry Pork Chop, Brown Sauce Chicken and Peppercorn Sauce Chicken. Alternatively, there's also Beef Noodle Soup and Pork Sauce Noodles - thick, wheaty noodles topped with minced pork and tofu.

Oolong Milk Foam ($5.00)

While the Plant Milk Tea was on our minds, we veer away from it's calorific sweetness to leave more room for other menu items. The Oolong Milk Foam featured their signature SeaSalt Milk Foam, instead served in a cute jug on top of refreshing Oolong Tea, which can be had hot or cold. A whole page of the cute, handwritten menu is dedicated to teaching you how to best drink the foam for maximum enjoyment. Using a straw won't enable you to taste both the salty foam and cooling drink at once, so go ahead and take a big sip straight from the edge of the jug. And don't leave it too long, because this lets the foam seep into and dilute the tea, turning the drink an unusual cloudy white colour and taking away some of it's signature taste.

The foam itself is a perfect balance of salty and sweet, something which can be tailored to your own individual taste by altering the amount of sugar you prefer upon filling out the order form. The texture is smooth and thick, denser than your average milk froth, with a flavour which so joyously resembles that of drinkable, full-fat cream - only with a hint of salt. Combined with the chilled oolong tea, it provides a lovely depth of sweet, salty, creamy flavour without being too heavy or rich.

Taro Milk Foam ($5.50)

The Taro Milk Foam, being a milk-based tea, has the iconic subtle 'taro' flavour with an added dimension which the foam provides. It's noticeably heavier than the Oolong Milk Foam, and a touch sweeter too.

Japanese Takoyaki ($6.90)

Takoyaki arrive piping hot, drizzled with a squeeze of mayonnaise and bonito flakes. They're moorish and tasty with a good chunk of octopus in each one, and we have to restrain ourselves to avoid burning our tongues.

Beef Noodle Soup ($10.80)

Beef Noodle Soup is another one of their signature dishes, a spicy dark beef broth featuring chunks of beef brisket, flat wheat noodles and bok choy. It's unfortunate that the beef is hard and tough, although there is a generous amount of it, and the soup itself is lukewarm. The soup is laced with a slick of chilli oil, which provides an addictive, lingering heat. I love the chewy, squiggly texture of the flat noodles, and the scoop of unami pickles on top.

Brown Sauce Chicken on Rice ($9.80)

Brown Sauce Chicken is haphazardly chopped, which makes eating it a bit of a cautious ordeal. It looks tasty nevertheless, although it would've been easier to eat if served on a slightly bigger plate, as bits of corn and rice tended to get everywhere on the table.

Drinks are by far the main appeal of Tea + - as the name suggests - extending far beyond the conventional milk tea and their special SeaSalt Foams to Fruit Slushies in flavours such as Kumquat and Matcha Red Bean, and 'Special Drinks' like Longan and Red Date Tea and Honey Pomelo Juice. The food, though good value, sometimes varies in quality, so next time it might be a better idea to stick to the smaller specialty snack dishes, or rice mains. There has been some debate about the hype surrounding Tea +, but it's a cute, cheap place which serves interesting food at wallet-friendly prices.


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