Food & Drink

Like brown sauce? Rush to Taipei Express

Taipei Express

731 Providence Road. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. weekdays; noon-9:30 p.m. weekends; lunch prices end at 3 p.m. Lunch: $4.75-$5.75; dinner: $6.75-$9.95. Credit cards: MC/VI. 704-334-2288.

I like brown. One of my favorite shirts is brown. My favorite comic-strip character was Charlie Brown. I like brown sauces.

But at Taipei Express, I went through a brown-out. With the exception of chicken fried rice and pan-fried pork dumplings, everything I ordered was covered in brown sauce. And with the exception of the slightly salty sauce on the Szechuan Twin Twist, all the brown sauces tasted nearly identical.

I guess if you order the same thing whenever you go, the brown factor won't be an issue. But if it's variety you seek, that isn't in great supply.

The call

If you order from Taipei Express, you better be either around the corner or in the parking lot. Both my wait times were quoted for only 10 minutes. The first was on the money. On my second visit, the kitchen was running about five minutes behind.

Kudos to the Taipei staff for double-bagging take-out orders. The plastic bag surrounding the brown paper bag holding the food assured nothing leaked.

The food

I'm on a crusade to find a place that consistently turns out a good bowl of hot and sour soup. Taipei Express' version was a little better than most. Mushrooms, tofu and slices of pork bobbed up and down in a deep brown broth that maintained a nice balance.

Chicken fried rice was infused with the wok smokiness I like.

There was sweetness to the Crispy Scallion Chicken, which was a nice surprise. When I ordered it, a staff member warned me it would be spicy. But that spiciness toned down the sweetness of the crisp chicken pieces coated in a richly colored brown sauce.

Chicken and shrimp were the stars of the Szechuan Twin Twist. The salty brown sauce all but drowned out the flavor of the red peppers, water chestnuts, snow peas and onions.

Speaking of drowning, mixed Chinese vegetables (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, snow peas and mushrooms) languished in a neutral-tasting brown sauce. You can request the vegetables in “white sauce.” Had I known the other food I ordered would be covered in a brown sauce, I'd have taken that option.

My initial fear was that the pork meatball inside the large pan-fried dumpling would be small, meaning there would be a lot of dumpling left over after the meat was gone. Not so. The moist, over-sized meatball filled almost the entire thing.