The heavy eastern influence clearly projected through the ambience
Situated in Auto-City in Juru, Penang, this restaurant famous for its Japanese buffet, had been operating for a few years, with another outlet at E-Gate on Penang island. When I was a mere student, forking out RM50 per person for a meal sounded far-fetched, and bordering on absurdity. Now? It's possibly time for a comeback. With a vengeance. Muahaha ...Their sushi counter, with UNlimited supplies of rolled rice with all types of fish imaginable ... With the sushi master helming the process, you can be assure of the freshness of the cuts
With more than 100 items on their menu, the concept is simple, albeit slightly different from the average buffet meals. You ORDER the dishes you desire through the person waiting (waiter-ing?) your table, instead of getting up from your seat every few minutes to replenish your plates. Pros? Perfect for lazybums (like us), and you can browse the menu in the comfort of your seats, rather than pressured to choose at the buffet line. Cons? The 10% service charge, and frantically waving for their attention. But fortunately, although we were seated in a private room (for larger crowds, obviously) the waiter was very attentive, and dropped by our door to check if we need anything, periodically.Sary Abalone - Fresh, QQ-texture abalone slices with mayo sauce Sashimi Karapacho (yup, I suspect they mean carpaccio, but the raw cuts were different) - Various chunks of fish/octopus drizzled, or doused with mayo, and sweet Japanese sauce Salmon Papaya
Their signature item, Salmon Papaya which were cuts of sweet, matured papaya wrapped with smoked salmon. A different flavour, fusion if you will, but remember to eat them once they're served. After awhile, the cuts tend to get a little soggy. Over-hyped, me thinks.Sashimi Moriawase and various Hand Rolls
Thick cuts of salmon, butterfish and octopus served fresh. However, the serving above was a DOUBLE portion. Imagine that. Probably a strategy to minimize wastage, OR cut cost. As I'm sure everyone would be gunning for the sashimi to get his/her money's worth. The hand rolls were so-so, too much rice, and too little fillings. And the seaweed's too chewy for my preference.Chef Maki - Changes every now and then, depending on the chef at helm. Delightful salmon slices with kiwi, and sides of crunchy seaweeds and salad Kimisu Tako, Tako Sunomono, and Lingo To Mozuku Zuke - All passable appetizers, the first two involved tako, or octopus, while the latter was crunchy strands of seaweed
(Clockwise from top left) : Thai Spicy Lamb, Grilled Shisamo (smelt), Teppanyaki Duck Breast, and Yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers)
The cooked items on the menu were an impressive lot, incorporation grilling, steaming, and boiling, and influences from every corner, from Chinese to Western, and Thai to Korean. Particularly interesting was the Thai Spicy Lamb, marinated lamb cuts cooked in a spicy sauce, with capsicums and onions. Every bite was an explosive myriad of flavours, savoury, and spicy. The grilled chicken on skewers were exceptionally large cuts of chicken thigh meat, so much that we were having problem finishing them. Probably a plot to fill our stomach in order to prevent over-binging on other items? Hmm ....
Some crappy stuff like the White Skin Crab resembled poorly wrapped Chee Cheong Fun, with bits of crab meat, and the mantis prawns which were a tad saltish. The steamed unagi was delectable, and its freshness shone through. If only we opted for a larger portion ...Grilled Lamb Shoulder
No gravy was necessary. Juicy cuts of lamb shoulder marinated to perfection. No gamey taste, no chewy texture. But some fatty parts remained intimidatin. Must-try.Sakana with Spicy Mayo
Grilled cuts of cod fish, topped with creamy mayo sauce with a kick. Suffice to say, these disappeared in a flash.Grilled Salmon
Rich with Omega-3, salmon remains as the top choice for fatty fishes, as tuna and cod are pricier options. Large plate of perfectly grilled salmon, fresh, and devoid of fishy flavour. KYT nodded in agreement. Hehehe .... The skin was crispy as well.Mixed Tempura (Prawns and Vegetables)
Normally, the main problem with tempura dishes in buffet meals would be too cold, and the batter too thick, rendering them inedible if not dunked in the tentsuyu sauce, and lots of daikon (white radish). But at Tao, as they deep-fry them ON-THE-SPOT, the crunchy and light batter complemented the fresh prawns really well. One minor gripe; Where's the daikon??!!Shitake Kushi (Grilled shitake mushrooms on skewers)
Juicy mushrooms, grilled with a bit of salt. Appeared rather dry and shrunken, but surprisingly moist and tasty. Good snack. Though the others did not resound my opinions.Crab Meat With Cheese
One glimpse and these fried 'wanton'-like structures looked mediocre. But one bite, and we were in seventh heaven. Hot, creamy cheese oozed from the fillings, very rich, but paired with the crunchy skin, this is a MUST-TRY item. We ordered second servings before the end of the meal.Motoyaki Scallops
And this might be MY favourite choice for the whole evening. Grilled scallops with a spicy and creamy sauce. I downed a few in no time. And we ordered seconds as well. Not exactly BIG in sizes, but scored with the full flavour. And you can have UNlimited servings of these babies. Size indeed, DOES NOT matter.One word ... Zen
We only managed to order roughly only 50% of the items in the menu. Yup, there are WAY more to choose from. Of course, some dishes I did not snap, and some photos came out blurry as everybody's in frenzy to tuck in.
Price : RM48/person ++. But come before 6.30pm and you'll get an "Early Bird" discount of 10%. Thus, we paid RM50 per pax nett. Their dining session is separated into two, to cater to a larger crowd. 5.30pm - 8.00pm, and 8.00pm - 10.30pm. Pick one, and remember to book in advance if you're going on weekends or public holidays, to avoid disappointment.
Location : TAO Authentic Asian Cuisine @ Juru Auto-City, Penang. From the North-South highway towards Penang from the south, turn left into the JURU exit, after the Juru toll. You'll see the Auto-City on your left, even from the highway. Tel No : 04-5017826.
Website : www.tao-cuisine.com