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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Seafood that stands out

Contemporary Chinese restaurant Tao offers nothing new but executes ubiquitous dishes well
The Sunday Times - March 30, 2014
By: Wong Ah Yoke, Food Critic
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Seafood that stands out The Pot Roasted Crab With Glass Noodles (above) and Pot Roasted Cod taste quite different despite having similar ingredients. -- PHOTO: TAO SEAFOOD ASIA

There are so few new contemporary Chinese restaurants which are not a part of big chains such as Crystal Jade, Imperial Treasure or TungLok that Tao Seafood Asia stands out.

Concept-wise, however, the restaurant, which opened at Asia Square Tower 2 at the end of last year, is not that different.

There is nothing you haven't seen on the menu, for example. Like many other modern Chinese restaurants, there is a selection of Cantonese seafood dishes - including expensive fare such as shark's fin soup, braised whole abalone and live fish - mixed with local seafood dishes such as chilli crab.

The only difference is that, being a seafood restaurant, meat dishes are kept to a minimum. There is only a drunken chicken for starters and four meat choices for mains, comprising a pot roasted chicken, two venison dishes and a sweet-and-sour pork.

The interior design does not display much personality, with a brightly lit, pleasant dining room which could be used to describe dozens of other contemporary, mid-tier Chinese restaurants.

Tao, however, has some stand-out dishes.

One example is the Crispy Fish Skin With Salted Egg Sauce ($10). The restaurant is not the first to add the ubiquitous salted egg yolk sauce to deep-fried fish skin, but it executes the little snack really well.

The skin is thin and very crispy and, instead of being doused in egg yolk - a mistake which some eateries make - there is just enough sauce to flavour it. The result is a light and tasty appetiser, which is quite an achievement considering its ingredients and the fact that it is deep-fried.

Some mains are pretty impressive too. One to try is the Pot Roasted Crab With Glass Noodles ($45), a dish commonly found in Thai and Vietnamese restaurants.

When I have my dinner, the restaurant is out of the mid-sized crabs used for this dish and the server suggests substituting them with crab claws instead. At $18 a claw, it costs more if you have a party bigger than two people. And I'd imagine it to be less tasty, without the sweet juices of a live crab.

Even then, the dish is delicious, with the glass noodles soaked in tasty sauce and aromatic oils. In fact, the noodles taste better than the crab claws, which are a tad overcooked and, therefore, have most of their flavour drained from them. On the upside, they come shelled, making it easy to get at the chunk of crabmeat.

The Pot Roasted Cod ($38) comes in the same Thai-style metal pot and some of the ingredients - garlic cloves and coriander roots - are what you find in the crab dish too. But the taste is quite different, as the sauce, described in the menu as "Tao Seafood Asia essence", has the glaze and hue of a sweeter and denser brown sauce.

The Tao Seafood Asia Curry Jumbo Prawn ($18 each) is supposed to be inspired by a creamy Thai curry, but the sauce lacks the fragrance of coconut milk and the spiciness of a good curry. That is a pity as the meaty prawn could have been a winner.

The most disappointing dish, however, is the Chinese Spinach In Superior Broth ($18), which is surprising because it is not difficult to cook well. The problem here is that the stock is too weak and the spinach undercooked. Simmering the spinach longer with fried garlic cloves, salted egg, century egg and wolfberries in the stock would produce softer and sweeter vegetables.

TAO SEAFOOD ASIA

12 Marina View, Asia Square Tower 2, 02-10, tel: 6844-9969

Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 10pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays and public holidays

Food: ***1/2

Service: ***1/2

Ambience: ***

Price: Budget from $70 a person, more if you order live seafood or premium items

MUST TRY

Crispy Fish Skin With Salted Egg Sauce ($10)

Many restaurants serve this but few do it so well - it is crispy and light.

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