TAO Uptown New York | Balancing Your Inner Tao
Tao – the way of nature and/or ideal way to live one’s life
As you walk through the heavy wooden doors that seem to have been transported from the ancient Chinese times, you enter Tao Uptown, the Midtown temple-like restaurant that holds scenes of lively family gatherings and parties yet still maintains a surprisingly peaceful and relaxing vibe to it.
Past the front doors, guests are greeted immediately by a row of personnel, behind the counter, ready to provide their best service. Guests are then led the way to their tables, passing by crowds of other guests sitting on comfortable lounge chairs or at the bar, enjoying their drinks and night. At first sight of solely this space, people might think or even expect that this restaurant would be leaning more towards the trendier bar and club environment.
“The further one goes, the less one knows”
You are then faced with stairs that bring you to the upper level and a path on the same level that brings you to the more open and expansive dining area. Both levels have large round tables with lazy susans to accommodate bigger groups and families, but also have tables for smaller groups. The third and highest level, the Skybox, offers views of the entire restaurant from its two-story, 35-foot high location. The perception of this place targeting the trendier group is no longer existent once you take a look at the people at each table. You will realize there are many families, with people of all ages, and even a lot of children here, some of which are running around. This is what creates the lively and homey ambiance of this restaurant. Walking through both levels, you can hear the laughter and feel the happiness from each guest, spreading to neighboring tables. It is almost as if you are absorbing all the positive energy, making the meal and experience even more memorable and enjoyable. Like a temple, Tao Uptown does what it does for the better, bringing things and people together which in this case, it’s bringing families together. A place that invites families and friends to come gather and potentially find their inner Tao.
Home’s like a temple whenever we seek to love one another, Especially our family, where love should be.
However, it is hard to not be automatically taken in by the wall design of cavities and depressions throughout the restaurant, all lit up and occupied by artifacts and statues from China, Japan and Thailand, adding more to the temple environment. They all stand out in their own niche, calling for attention and hoping to be noticed. But what does capture your eyes and take you aback is the 16-foot Buddha statue that sits right in the center of the back wall. The extremely high ceiling dramatically emphasizes its towering feature. The statue becomes the focal point, similar to the positioning of statues of gods in temples, centered facing the entrance. Every table on every level becomes a desirable vantage point of the Buddha as the backdrop to accompany guests for the duration of their meal.
Tao Uptown’s menu comprises of Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines, with many dishes being very unique and not the same as the typical and standard dishes of these cuisines. As an appetizer to start, the Satay of Chilean sea bass with a miso glaze definitely stood out. Biting into the skewer of the meaty portions of the fish, the buttery taste covers all taste buds and fills the mouth. The taste still lingers even when you have some of the mixed seaweed and mushrooms, both of which have very strong tastes, siding the sea bass on this dish. It is no surprise when the waitress said this appetizer is the staple, and a major hit that almost every table would order.
The spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice demonstrated a good play on textures, with the crispy rice having a crunchy exterior and a chewy interior, accompanied by the topping of spicy tuna tartare, also having the same contrast of textures. The lobster wontons with shiitake ginger broth felt and tasted like a dish families would make at home and it surely warms the heart. The clay pot served wontons are really dense; making sure each bite will provide more than enough lobster. The mushrooms and ginger helped to add to the rich flavors of the broth.
The diver sea scallops with red curry and Thai basil from the Noble Treasures From the Sea section of the menu was quite a surprise. Being that it was a Thai dish, the spices and flavors of the red curry and Thai basil certainly had that aspect covered. But what was amazing besides their outstanding traditional Thai flavor was that it didn’t steal the spotlight from the scallops. The lightly seared scallops left a fresh and sweet taste on your palate that the red curry wasn’t able to conquer and wash away. This dish clearly lived up to its category as a noble treasure with its superior quality. From the Sky, the Peking duck for two was another shocker. Served on a square plate, each surface is covered with the skin of the perfectly roasted duck. The thin crackling and crispy duck skin had a slight crunch to it and it felt like a snack that you could keep munching on. The meat was tender and juicy, and when paired with spring onions, cucumbers, and Hoisin sauce wrapped in a thin bread skin, it was extraordinary. What was also extraordinary was that Tao Uptown not to use the typical bun, which would’ve filled you right quickly.
As your sight shifts from the Buddha to your food to almost everything of the restaurant’s design you can lay your eyes on, you will realize the Chinese calligraphy on the ceiling, something that might’ve been overlooked despite that it is hovering over the center of the restaurant. The essence behind each stroke of each character slowly seeps through the ceiling and leaves you wondering the meaning behind the calligraphy. Along with lights and lanterns that are hung around the writing on the ceiling, it creates a soothing and relaxing atmosphere even when it might be a bit loud and nosy around you. The lanterns resembled the thick-coiled spiral incense that are hung and burned in temples. Incense holds a crucial role in Buddhist ceremonies and rites and is believed to be a way of purifying the surroundings and bringing forth an assemblage of Buddhas and gods, to help serve as an aid in prayers. Although there wasn’t the scent of incense, but just simply the visual connection of it can lead you the way to a more comfortable dining experience. Unlike at temples, you do not need to pray or hope for certain things.