New York is a melting pot of cuisines, and never more so than in the Meatpacking District where you can find a French café nestled next to a hot dog cart around the corner from a Mexican Taqueria. During our recent stay at The Maritime Hotel we found ourselves craving Pan-Asian food, thanks to the tempting room service menu from Tao Downtown, conveniently located underneath the hotel.
Tao Downtown is the latest and trendiest restaurant from the Tao group (Ell recalls visiting Tao Uptown just after it had opened many years ago), so we were lucky that they could squeeze us in amongst the cream of New York society.
The first thing that overwhelms you about Tao Downtown is the enormity of the venue. From entering its doors, walking down a long brick walled corridor that provides glimpses of the subterranean restaurant, before being greeted at reception then entering the main room, it takes your breath away as you try and get your head around the expansive multi-level space.
It instantly brought back memories of visiting Buddha Bar Paris in the noughties, not least because of the massive reclining Buddha that forms the restaurant lounge at the top of the 40-foot ‘Grand’ staircase. Descending the staircase, surrounded by banquettes, massive overhead lights and statues dotted everywhere, one tries to keep focused and not trip down them whilst you scan your fellow diners (and they have all eyes on each new arrival also).
You finally reach the safety of the main dining floor where you face a floor-to-ceiling deity, the Quan Yin, with its 24 hands sitting atop a Koi pond as a 3D projector spectacularly brings the statue to life through various colourful moving patterns; flowers blooming, waterfalls…it’s amazing!
For a dimly lit massive space you oddly feel connected. The décor is outstanding, not an inch of this vast venue hasn’t been thought about, yet the restaurant manages to create a sense of stepping back to a fabulously wealthy bygone era. It’s a feast for the senses!
Anyone who’s watched Sex and the City knows that these types of hyper-trendy restaurants can go two ways; not being Instafamous we could have found ourselves in a forgotten corner, with a discourteous waiter, but we got the feeling that Tao Group aim to greet everyone equally so we were delighted to be settled at a central table, welcomed by our effervescent waiter who expertly looked after us for the evening.
The menu is vast, with so many incredible sounding dishes, so we decided to rely on our waiters food recommendations; ordering a selection of small sharing plates of sushi rolls, dim sum, barbecue, yakitori and tempura dishes.
To be honest, the ordering was the most stressful part of the evening, so much choice! Once done we sipped on our moreish cocktails whilst soaking up the ambience as plate after plate of deliciousness was delivered to the table – the food was infused, plated and cooked to perfection.
Stand out dishes for us were the tuna Pringles with truffle aioli (yes actual gourmet Pringles!), the crispy bao buns and the spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice. And for dessert, their molten chocolate cake served in its own chocolate bento box….mmm…literally dying thinking about that right now!
Tao Downtown is up there as one of the best Pan-Asian restaurants we’ve frequented so we would highly recommend a visit if you’re after a night of lasting memories, although sitting here in the middle of the COVID pandemic we wonder if places like this will ever be the same. Will sharing plates even be a concept post-COVID? Do people want to sit so close to hundreds of others? Does social distancing kill an atmosphere? We don’t know but we know that the food was d@mn good and that one day we hope to be able to visit again.
The following night we headed to Chinatown’s Chinese Tuxedo restaurant. You can read that review here.