Like its successful sister restaurant in Karachi, Tao has generated a great deal of buzz within days of it becoming functional in Lahore. It’s prime claim to fame being a fusion of Pan Asian food.
Situated off M.M. Alam Road, the restaurant offers a wide selection of beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes that should appeal to a range of taste palettes.
Its red-door entrance led us into the dining area which was large enough for people to look around, as we did, and soak in the fragrance of fresh herbs and spices.
The new eatery’s interior is modern, eclectic and fuss-free. It is also well-lit. Though, there wasn’t much in terms of décor when we visited the place (in late June), as it was getting ready to open for public ahead of Eid, we liked its two-floor setup and, especially, its courtyard.
Once seated, we decided to have the much-touted Dynamite Prawns for a starter. To our surprise, these proved to be the star dish of the night. Lightly battered, toasted in a red fiery aioli, and served in a cocktail glass just the way it’s done at the famous PF Chang in Dubai, the prawns weren’t rubbery at all. They were done to perfection in the sauces which made them oh-so-delicious.
Kids love to have soup any day, so we went ahead and ordered Chicken Creamy Corn & Egg Drop Soup for my youngest one while the older girls settled for Hot ‘n’ Sour that had been flavoured with chicken, shrimps, black mushroom, tofu and spices.
A trip to Tao is incomplete without having tried their Tom Yum. The broth is cooked with shrimps or an option of chicken with galangal and spiced with bird’s eye chilli. But beware, as it’s not meant for the faint-hearted; the two-chilli sign clearly indicates that this is a spicy option. Designer Maheen Kardar who was present at the soft launch of the outlet, couldn’t agree more: “I can’t get enough of Tom Yum soup and the Thai beef salad which’s just perfect. Besides, the ambiance is inviting as well.”
A small, tasting platter piled with delicacies like beef tataki, crispy spring rolls and Malaysian Satay, was served prior to the main course.
Abdus Samad, one of the owners of Tao, told us that there was “a gap of Pan-Asian food variety in Karachi and Lahore, which led us to bring Tao to town.”
For the uninitiated, Tao is a contemporary take on Pan Asian cuisine, with a spin on the various cooking techniques like grilling, steaming and pan-frying. Besides, it offers classic dishes from Malay, Japanese, Thai and Chinese.
According to Samad, the supply chain was a complex process, especially because “most of our raw material including sea food is flown in almost daily from Karachi, and special items like salmon and tuna fish from Dubai.”
Coming to the main course, a dish like crispy beef (the chef’s recommendation) will surely win hearts. Crispy undercut slices, wok fried with oyster sauce bell pepper and scallion sticks with a dash of roasted sesame seeds is simply Yummy (with a Capital Y).
There’s lot more on the beef section that I intend to try on my next visit to the place, which include a Korean delight named Bulgogi beef.
Individual serving of steamed rice is more than enough and one can also try Pad Thai noodles, slightly spiced with tamarind sauce, and the ever famous Chow Mein to go with your serving.
Tao has an extensive sashimi and sushi selection that has everything from assorted Nigiri of seven pieces to individual helpings that include the much sought after house rolls and makimono, tempuras, salmon maki, and beef Shogayaki rolled together and covered with avocado slices. Sounds more like a haven for sushi lovers unlike many who still settle for safer poultry items?
When we moved on to the meat department, we loved Pat Pit Kai with boneless chicken strips tossed with sweet chilli sauce. Kindo chicken is another must-try; fried in honey-sweetened chilli sauce and vegetables.
The regular option of Chicken Teriyaki, cashew nuts and Szechuan Chicken was also there but we went for the specialties and opted out of the usual items. Steamed lobster, Singaporean crabs and garlic pepper crabs were also in the long list offered.