Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nothing Like Fish on a Stick

Satay of Chilean Sea Bass -- TAO

Truth be told, we really didn't want to go to TAO at all.

After managing to escape from Il Vagabondo with not one bocce ball game to our name, we had intended to go to Mr. Chow, mere blocks away, for cocktails and squab (which is the Best Thing I Ever Ate choice - we don't generally make a habit of eating pigeon).  Sadly, however, when we arrive at Mr. Chow, eyes focused on the bar, we are unceremoniously turned away.  Why?  "People do not sit at the bar.  You must order dinner."

Now, call us crazy, but why have an ample number of stools surrounding the bar if people aren't allowed to sit on them?!  The whole policy seems ludicrous to us, so we turn away in a huff (or more in a baffled state of mumbling and confusion, but we like to think it was a "huff") and refuse to patronize the joint.

"Did you smell that place?" Ginger asks.  "It smelled like lilies.  Dying lilies.  How could anyone eat in there?"  It seems as though Ginger has either been so overwhelmed by Mr. Chow's love of overbearing florals, or she is consoling herself about not being granted a seat at the bar with unrelated (if completely accurate) rampages about their use of fragrance.

So this circumstance is how we end up at TAO.  And truth be told, we we are not so happy to be here.

You see, TAO had been featured on the LAS VEGAS episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, but since the dish, Chris Santos's choice of the satay of chilean sea bass, is also on the menu at the New York location, we figure we can bang out the consumption of it here.
These Aren't Your Freezer's Fish Sticks
Unfortunately in this case, it seems that what happens in Vegas most certainly does not stay in Vegas, as TAO has the dark, pounding, humid ambiance of a club (a place that nerds like us try never to go).  Eventually finding our way to one bench and then another in the bar area, we discover that, apparently, no one works at TAO, as it is all we can do to spot a member of the staff, let alone to get one to wait on us.  While there are several blonde women in odd, kimono-inspired dresses that appear to be associated with the restaurant, "work" does not seem to be part of their job description.  When spots open up at the bar stools (where, unlike at Mr. Chow, people are allowed to sit), we belly up to the place where we assume we can at least get service, and we are momentarily appeased.

"Momentarily" being the key word.

"You know what this is like?" Ginger asks.  "It's the kind of place where the Real Housewives of New Jersey come when they think they're having a big night out in the city."  Now, Vodka is not one to normally let her home state be disparaged in this way, but even she has to admit that the place reeks of EZ-Pass and hairspray.  Indeed, despite the fact that we are rather loyal fans of certain Times Square chain restaurants, there is an underlying stench of "trying too hard" at TAO that we cannot warm up to.

We can, however, warm up to their cocktails.
It Only Took Us, Oh, A Half Hour to Procure These
Diving into the peach cosmopolitan and lychee martini, we are impressed by TAO's ability to create a scrumptious beverage (though considering that we had just downed what amounts to a ginger ale and olive juice, perhaps their deliciousness is relative).  We then receive our order of the satay of chilean sea bass, which features two thick portions of fish speared with slender wooden sticks on top of criss-crossing stalks of asparagus.
This Was Probably a Cohesive Plating Plan the First Time They Did It
"Well, nothing like fish on a stick," Vodka says as we each reach for our first bite.  When we swallow, we decide that the sea bass is tasty, if nothing to write home about.  The fish itself is flaky and well-cooked, and the sauce topping it is salty with a hint of Asian flair (in this case, "Asian flair" is code for "we really have no idea what it is but it tastes like a sweet soy sauce").  The asparagus is a bit wilted for our liking, but overall, the dish is fairly satisfying.

The dish is also $19, which seems a bit steep for what is essentially a three-bite appetizer.
Sally Sold Sea Bass by the Sea Shore
Before long, we are desperate to get out of the place.  Unfortunately, the bartender is now too busy performing dental hygiene on himself to bring us our check ("He's picking his teeth.  No -- literally -- he is PICKING his TEETH instead of looking at us").  We take the opportunity to make our way to the bathroom, where the doors are affixed with the signs "Yang" and "Yin."

"How do you know if you're a yang or a yin?!  Is that supposed to be common knowledge?!" Ginger asks, forcing a helpful gentleman to point us in the right direction (for the record, we are "yin").  "This place is too much for me," Ginger relates.  "Up until recently, I thought there were 56 weeks in a year."
56 Weeks in a Year, 56 Cocktails in a Month, Same Difference
And it is at this moment that we realize that despite our current supercilious nature, we are actually the biggest nitwits to step into TAO's premises all night.

We can also guarantee that if we ever do go to Las Vegas, we may not be the only ones drinking cocktails before noon, but we will most certainly be the only ones to be finished for the day by 4:00pm, complaining about the crowds, the noise, the lighting, and all of that gag-inducing hairspray.

TAO's Satay of Chilean Sea Bass: 3 stars

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