Chinese food has seen a recent resurgence in Auckland with establishments like Artwok showing that the cuisine can be more than just sickly sweet and sour pork. Tao follows this trend, offering a delectable modern take on traditional Chinese dishes, in slick, minimalist surroundings.
Just off the main road in Newmarket you'll spot a wee blue neon sign hanging from the eve emblazoned with the letters TAO. Stroll inside and you'll be impressed with the industrial, oriental-influenced fit-out featuring decorative copper piping on grey-white, bare walls, deep-blue booth seating, intricately decorated tea pots hanging above the bar and a room-divider made of lush hanging plants and hemp rope.
The menu is perhaps even more impressive featuring classic Chinese flavours presented in a more modern, considered and artful fashion than usual. Don't miss the Peking duck pancakes with salad and sweet bean sauce ($24). The duck is faultless, flavourful and tender and wrapped up with some bean sauce in a pancake. The pancakes are guaranteed to blow your mind. The red braised pork belly with pacific scallop and pine nut pesto ($26) offers unique flavours, melt in your mouth buttery scallops and elegant presentation that's sure to ring the right bells.
The lunch menu offers more affordable fare including a traditional Beijing Zhajiang sauce noodle ($13) with chicken and mushroom that will give the best noodle-bowls in the city a run for their money.
There's also dumplings with tasty fillings such as beef brisket and scallop, and even a range of shumai and bao. Sadly dumplings aren't available at dinner - a discovering that made me tear up a little when the waiter informed me. Tao, I implore you to offer nighttime dumplings, as there's no better time to eat a pocket of meaty pastry miracles then when the sun's down and you're a few beers deep.
Apart from the 'no dumplings at nighttime disappointment' Tao is a unique and sophisticated Chinese dining experience, complete with a cocktail list and an atmosphere worthy of the delicious food.