Tao NYC

I just returned from a chilly but fun trip in NYC! I visited for a little over two days, to attend two interviews and to see my college friend Zheng. I wish I had more time to spend in nyc, taking in all the beautiful sights and sounds and cuisine, but that simply means that I will be back again sometime :) The only bummer on this trip was that I was just at the start of a bad cold, so I was feeling fuzzy and stuffy the whole time, with not much of an appetite and a diminished sense of taste.  Thus, I vow to return one day when I am feeling well!

Nevertheless, the highlight of my trip was a fabulous dinner at the trendy pan-Asian fusion restaurant Tao (pronounced "dao"). We made reservations a month in advance, because it gets very packed even on weeknights. It's one of those places that even celebrities like to go to, although I unfortunately didn't spot any the night we went. This restaurant is probably best known for its towering Buddha statue in the center of the dining room, and don't worry, I didn't forget to take a picture or two. I liked the dim ambiance of the place, although it was terribly non-conducive to my photo-taking tendencies. I must say, I was blinded more than a handful of times, by patrons who thought it would be a good idea to take pictures of the Buddha statue from far away using their camera flash. I'm pretty sure that was a waste of time. Here's my slightly blurry non-flash photo of the Buddha, bathed in multicolored lights (trendy Buddha, I suppose haha). It doesn't look so big in the picture, but it spanned the height of nearly two floors! (see lady on the lower left in comparison)

Anyway, onto the food! Unfortunately, out of dining etiquette, I did not photograph most of the food, because it was very dim and I really didn't want my flash going off left and right. We got drinks to start off, a beer for Zheng and a "Taotini" for me, which is Absolut Mandarin, Stolichnaya Raspberry, Malibu Rum, and cranberry and lime juices, all shaken up and decorated with a spear of fresh raspberries. Mmm refreshing! The Taotini is the most popular mixed drink at the restaurant, so of course I had to try that. I figured, this is probably the only time in my life I'll be able to have dinner at this place, so I'd better get the things its best known for.

Appetizers were peking duck spring rolls and squab lettuce wraps, both of which were great. The duck rolls had some sort of paste inside that I was unfamiliar with (not the usual vegetable scraps), and I can only guess that it was a mushroom or bean paste. I made a real mess with the squab lettuce wraps, but they were delicious. It came as a dish of ground squab, cooked with scallions in a soy-based sauce, for us to scoop into bowl-shaped iceberg lettuce pieces. I have never found lettuce wraps to be a food that can be eaten without making a mess, and Tao was no exception haha. But you know, the more hands-on the food is, the more tasty it can be!

Next came entrees – Zheng got the 12 oz. kobe beef ribeye (probably the single most expensive item on the menu, at $88, only topped by the special of the night, which was a kobe beef filet mignon at $200), which came with fried onion strings. Tao is probably best known for its kobe beef, but I would decide to get another one of their highlights, the Chilean sea bass, which came grilled on top of a bed of stir-fried vegetables, and topped with a miso glaze and powder. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful the dish was, I only wish I had a bigger appetite so I could have finished the huge filet. The fish was tender on the inside, and crispy on the surface from the sear. I adored the miso powder and glaze, which was a perfect dichotomy of salty and sweet. The wok-cooked vegetables at the bottom of the dish were lacking in taste and texture, as they were wilted and much too salty, which did not enhance the fish at all, so I left most of it and focused on my sea bass instead, so delicious! I'm so glad I chose this dish, it suited my mood perfectly, because it was not greasy at all and had a delicately sweet flavor and tender texture, all of which suited me in my state of sickness. At a price of $34, it actually is not bad, considering how big of a piece of fish you get.

Finally, dessert. We were both super stuffed after our entrees, but somehow the dessert menu ended up in front of us, and well, I guess if we were going to go all out then we weren't going to skimp on dessert. We ordered a mochi sampling plate, which had six mochi ice cream balls sitting in a triangle shaped plate. The variety included: pistachio, pumpkin, raspberry with white chocolate, and chocolate with peanut butter. They were all so divine, and I really enjoyed the assortment of flavors (I think my favorite was the raspberry white chocolate one, followed closely by the pistachio offering). The pumpkin mochi ice cream was actually quite good also, with its warm spiciness it tasted just like a pumpkin pie, but more refreshing. Mmmm. After dessert was done, we were presented with two chocolate fortune cookies (I can't handle any more more food!!), with funny fortunes inside.

Tao was simply an amazing adventure, something so defining of trendy culture in NYC and yet satisfying all the same. Unfortunately I can't tell you what the final tally of the bill was, since Zheng refused to let me see it, but from my estimates, the total after tax and tip must have been just over $200 (!!!) Many thanks to him for treating me to such an extravagant meal, he's much too generous, I will probably never stop feeling indebted lol. So now in closing, an obligatory picture of me on the second floor balcony, trying to get the Buddha in the background. (Zheng refuses to take pictures with me, god only knows why. He claims it will be incentive for me to visit again, but that makes no sense to me whatsoever haha). Anyway, unfortunately, the flash meant that I was too bright and the Buddha was too dark. If anyone is good with photoshop and can help me fix this picture, I would be so grateful!!!

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