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Located at the top of a sweeping marble staircase in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel, Tao Chinese Cuisine is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown KL.
With its warm and subdued lighting, tasteful décor and friendly staff, walking into Tao is like stepping into springtime, literally. Tao means peach in Mandarin and this restaurant stays true to its moniker with panels of peach blossoms lining the entrance corridor as well as the insides of the restaurant, giving it a vibrant atmosphere.
But it’s not just peach blossoms that bloom in Tao; the place bursts with opulence and understated elegance with its LED light feature on the ceiling that resembles swirls of clouds in a Chinese ink brush painting. Also worth mentioning is its unique collection of Chinese teapots, all artfully placed on specially built shelves throughout the restaurant.
There are six luxuriously appointed private dining rooms, all named after Chinese dynasties if privacy is sought after.
With a well-thought-out menu created by chef Wong Lian You, Tao is a latter-day Cantonese restaurant and its cuisine is flavourful and both refined and satisfying. As patrons settle in to their seats, they are served with Chinese black tea, a welcoming treat, which is said to be good for the skin.
For the health-conscious, there is a healthy cuisine section, which offers nutrient-dense dishes such as wok-fried trio mushrooms, farm greens and wolfberries in pumpkin sauce, and vegetarian fried rice.
As an appetiser, Tao’s specialty, deep-fried oysters with mango salsa is savoury and tangy and certainly does not disappoint with its combination of crunchy and soft textures. The traditional Peking duck with condiments is a treat in every sense. The demi chef carves the duck on a special trolley in front of patrons and the succulent meat is then served with braised e-fu noodles and sprigs of choy sum. Another way to savour the tender duck meat is by wrapping it in a light pancake with a dollop of sweet plum sauce.
The chicken consommé with fish maw, cabbage and dried scallop is a nice palate cleanser after the richness of the Peking duck. Clear and soothing, this double-boiled soup is both refreshing and nutritious. The tender fish maw is crunchy to the bite and has a pleasant texture.
Another must-try is the mouth-watering wok-fried prawns with salted egg yolk, fresh curry leaves and chilli. Large juicy prawns are enveloped in a flavourful and creamy salted egg yolk sauce, which gives the dish a lovely piquant taste.
For a sweet finish to the meal, the duo of fried tempura durian and water chestnut is perfection as the initial crunch of the crust gives way to the oozing durian cream and crunchy water chestnut inside. It is the perfect end to a delicious meal and adds an extra star to this satisfying meal.
Having just won the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards for Excellence, it goes without saying that Tao’s wine list is exemplary and offers a wide selection of both new and old world wines. Rated by well-known wine critics, the wine list is divided into grape varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, champagnes as well as a section devoted to premium reds and whites.
A regular pairing with Chinese cuisine is the Chilean Gewürztraminer, however, the Penfolds Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shiraz Cabernet from Australia is another excellent choice. The richness of the Shiraz complements the strong flavours of the Peking duck and the salted egg yolk infused prawns flawlessly.
The attentive and cordial service at Tao is definitely commendable. The restaurant manager guides patrons through the menu and makes helpful suggestions on popular dishes. This is definitely a place to bring an important client or romantic interest if a lasting and memorable impression is one you wish to make.
The bill for the meal totalled RM507.50 for two people including a glass of wine each, which is a fair price to pay considering the exceptional ambience of the restaurant, the attentive service and the quality of the ingredients used and the methods of preparation for some of the dishes.