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Motormouth From Ipoh

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TAO Cuisine Japanese Buffet @ Juru Autocity, Penang

The front entrance to TAO Cuisine - Famous for its Japanese buffet and sushi
Imagine a week in anticipation. Advance booking's necessary especially on weekends. I still remembered them doubters, flicking me off when I suggested that we should book in advance. Then reality sunk in while we were dining, and the whole place was packed to the brim. With overflowing crowd, some peeking at us through the glass window, probably wishing for a taste, or a maybe a seat.

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 ....

(Clockwise from top left) : Steamed Unagi (eel), Taiwan Mantis Prawns, Tako Kimchi, and White Skin Crab

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 :


Anonymous said...

ei... so bad la... go makan besar also never tell.... lolx....

ya.. their 100s type of dishes we only able to sapu 70%...

you photo make me can't sit still now la...

bad boy..... :P

we are regular customer to them... adn i believe they all start to mark down our face to rejects us from visiting enxt round..

they lose big on each of our visit..... we eat aaaa loooot

Anonymous said...

Oooh... how vivid the Sary Abalone... Now I do need to visit Penang but soon!

I bet they'd lose money on me too! :P

Allie said...

Your picture make me can't wait for my next trip to Tao. Yummy

CK Lam said...

The buffet that I had at E-gate outlet was way back in the beginning of the year...think its time to visit this mainland outlet. The food makes me hungry.

Anonymous said...

OMFG... so many mind boggling choices!!! Interesting the motoyaki scallops - I've had a similar dish in Wasabi Bistro, Mandarin Oriental although it was made with tuna and was indeed vvg. I wonder if one of the chefs who trained there moved here.

p/s how can you not like lamb fat!!!! =.=

Anonymous said...

Kenny u sure or not, so slim and can eat a barrel...muahahah.

j2kfm, Motoyaki suits u right Motormouth.... my gosh got abalone uyarboh! must say the pics looks supernice and the Japanese traditional styled entrance and interior makes you feel Nippon leh.

Ciki said...

looks divine, it really does, but how come that abalone has like dessert chips on it (in the mayo)? or am i just seeing things.. lol

Little Inbox said...

Though I just visited them a few weeks ago, which I haven't post it up on my blog, but looking at their food now, I want to revisit them soon...
My favorite - the scallop, the abalone and the grilled Salmon.
I didn't order any main dish during my previous visit. Just keep on ordering their side dishes only.

sc said...

oh, my bro's GF told me about this place too! she said the buffet spread is real value for money..hmmm, but it's in PG..

Anonymous said...

Ugh, double Japanese posts for today (so far).

Isn't it hard to juggle between camera and wide spread buffet food? Kekeke.

HairyBerry said...

a gorgeous spread that puts many japanese buffet lines to shame. and for RM48++? wah, what a way to start a culinary adventure before turning into island.

errr, just to check. juru is before penang island hor? coming from kl, i mean.

Jackson said...

wow.. looks like a great place to indulge ourself.

Anonymous said...

wow impressive varieties and quality for that price! BUT i still think that rakuzen buffet at rm 55++ looks better haha

Anonymous said...

wow impressive varieties and quality for that price! BUT i still think that rakuzen buffet at rm 55++ looks better haha

J2Kfm said...

penangtuapui : hehe, we booked the private room, ala Japanese style seatings, and made a lot of noise. cant imagine if you guys r around, the whole kitchen may shut down!

Life for beginners : hehe, I think they earn from other stuff, maybe ala carte? IF there's any waterfish around game for their ala carte dishes, that is.

Allie : yeah, do go! with all the reviews and business, they may increase the prices soon

CK Lam : some said the Juru outlet better, true?

genuiness : OMFG?oh my friendly God? =P I din say I abhor the lamb fat, just that the fatty portion came in one whole chunk!

JENCOOKS : Motoyaki-Mouth? hehe ... cool.

Cumi & Ciki : not seeing things. It surprised us as well. But forgivable, as doesnt spoil the taste much.

Little Inbox : PLS blog! I'd like to see what you had! I din order their cooked dishes much.

sc : aiya, PG is a mere 4 hours frmo KL? :)

jason : why no LURVE for japanese food ah? aiya ... come back, we go pig out at Kizuna/Kampai/Waraku.

Nic : coming from KL, you'll definitely stop at the Juru toll, before reaching the bridge. After the toll, notice a turning on your left.

jackson : yes indeed.

kampungboycitygal : Rakuzen at RM55 only meh? wah ... not bad hor? Rakuzen being a reputable name aftre all. can include me the next session?

24HrMom said...

The papaya salmon (their signature dish) was one of my nmmuahhh... dish. I ordered double and had it all mine. :-D

The next a must try dish was "misoyake" or butter fish, which you did not post it here. Not sure if you had it. If not, pls try it the next time.. It taste sweet though. or, you could check out my blog for the photo. I visited them last year.

I just can't wait to visit them again...

J2Kfm said...

oh the Miso Yaki was not available that day ... such a waste.

I cant wait to go again as well, as I know I'll be digging a few items nonstop. =P

Elin Chia said...

Yo....MUST visit this place when we are there the next time!!! Thanks for all the info. The price is CHEAP!!! You are tempting me with all those grills and ohhh those scallops..mouth-watering pictures :)))

Anonymous said...

I like Japanese food but not the sashimi le. Btw, Waraku's not nice.

J2Kfm said...

elinluv : hehe, pls do try and I'll be awaiting your review then!

jason : sashimi nice ma ... depends which type la. Waraku's really that bad? I;m willing to give it another try woh ...

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