In Karachi, it seems like everyday is the opening of a new restaurant, eatery, café, food joint or whatever you want to call it. There are serious chefs living out their life’s dream, there are young entrepreneurs looking to make it big in the food business, and then there are those who just have way too much money for their own good and decide to open a restaurant…
Sadly, we live in an age where social media has turned people who eat their steak ‘well done’ into critics (sigh), and all of a sudden we have an ecosystem which can make or break even the most dedicated entrepreneurs.
The newest member to join this ever-expanding list of new eateries is TAO, a restaurant which is best described as offering ‘Pan-Asian’ cuisine. Pan-Asian brings together ingredients, flavors and dishes from Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, South Asia and Japan, all under one gastro umbrella. I wouldn’t go far as to say that TAO is ‘fusion’ food, but they do seem to want to head in that direction…
Upon entering the restaurant, the decor is simple (except for the in-your-face red velvet staircase) and nicely laid out. I personally prefer non-smoking restaurants (even though I’m a smoker myself), but it was nice to see that they had both smoking and non-smoking designated areas. Once seated, our server was polite, friendly and extremely helpful considering he was asked about a hundred different questions regarding the menu.
The meal began with a wide array of starters consisting of an assortment of sushi, soups and other fried finger foods. Surprisingly the sushi was pretty good, much better than was expected. The stuffed Maki, assorted Nigiri and Tempura Maki were as good as can be found anywhere in Karachi, especially when compared to other more-established restaurants like Sakura or Oishi. The dynamite prawns (which everyone seems to be raving about) were just that… Dynamite! The Hot and Sour soup was as good as can be, and the Beef Tataki and Negimaki which were both very tender, well-presented and bursting with flavor made for a fantastic first round.
Moving on to the main courses is where things started to lose a little momentum. The Jungle Beef and Kindo Chicken were timid, and lacked any real depth of flavor. They were ‘nice’, but nothing I would consider ordering again. Both the Thai red curry and green curry were average (at best) and unfortunately both the fish options and Pad Thai were terrible. Not for a lack of effort but the fish dishes just weren’t any good… Period. The Chu-Chi Pla was under-cooked and had a fishy smell to it. In the case of the Salmon Teriyaki it was just a case of over-cooking the fish and charring the fillet to a point of no return. Fortunately, the Black Pepper Beef was the night’s saving grace when it came to the mains and had just the right balance of flavors.
The saddest part of the meal however had to be the dessert… Of which there was NONE! How could this be?
When I asked the waiter he politely explained that the restaurant was still in the process of testing their menu, but that they would offer some options ‘soon’. Shortly after this discussion, the server duly asked the entire table for any comments or suggestions, so as to ensure that the restaurant learns from the feedback of customers. This is something I found very impressive as there are only a handful of restaurants in Karachi that actually pay such close attention to diner feedback. What’s more is that after this exchange, the bill was presented to the table and the very items that we had found fault with were removed from the bill.
Depending on how one looks at it, TAO is a way or a path – an essential route of life. It can be regarded as the ultimate journey and to some, is sacred. TAO, the restaurant, is on its way. With their close attention to detail, customer service-oriented approach, bold menu and willingness to improve; the journey can only be a fruitful one.