Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Food Review: Tao's Asian Bistro

Finding Asian cuisine in central Connecticut is like shooting fish in a barrel. With such an overabundance of Chinese and Japanese food locally, it becomes more and more difficult to be impressed by a restaurant that serves it exclusively. Tao Asian Bistro managed to fight through the slew of terrible take-out and proves to be one of the state’s top-notch Asian-fusion spots.

As you arrive at The Exchange in Farmington, you are confronted with a group of entrances that display the plaza’s bars and restaurants. Once you reach Tao’s main entrance, you are greeted with a set of stairs that lead to a sprawling dining room with walls painted in bright colors that bring to mind Chuck E Cheese more than it does as moderately priced restaurant.

As you descend the stairs, you have a couple different options in front of you. A choice between a traditional booth, table with four chairs, hibachi grill table or private seating areas for four that are blocked off from the rest of the dining room with bamboo shutters.

The decision was easy; the private dining is a great way to catch up with your fellow diners as you wait for waitress to bring over glasses of water and menus. Though the restaurant wasn’t incredibly busy on a cold Thursday night, the waitstaff was warm and friendly, checking in every few minutes to see if anything was needed.

Once menus are distributed, patrons are presented with an expansive selection that focuses on traditional Chinese fare alongside a sushi-heavy Japanese collection that give enough choices, even for the pickiest of diners.
As with most Asian-fusions, miso soup and salad start all entrees, giving the chef enough time to prepare the meal. In the case of Tao’s, the miso soup relied heavily on tofu cubes that overpower the normally balanced taste of miso soup. The salad was very bland with little dressing to mask the flavor of the wilted greens that were a day past ripe. The openers weren’t great, but this shouldn’t take away from the actual meal though.

The meal, once it arrives, is abundant and filling. The General Tso’s chicken was covered in a thick, spicy pepper sauce that blends well with the assorted veggies plated with it. The chicken, usually prepared as a dark meat dish, was prepared as exclusively with white meat. This variance made for a much more enjoyable. The mixed veggies, which included sliced carrots, broccoli and mushrooms absorbed most of the chicken’s heat, making the dish more palatable and not overwhelming. Only the mushrooms were disappointing, solely due to their softness that gave off a bad taste in the mouth. The size of the dishes also applied to the vegetable tempura and sushi platters. Leaving this restaurant feeling hungry just is not possible.

While Chinese food maintains to be a staple of our 24-7 lifestyles, sacrificing quality isn’t a prerequisite. Fine dining, large portions and multitudes of flavor are just a short drive down I-84 at Tao’s Asian Bistro in Farmington.

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