Tofu is the star at TaoBottom Highlights, Restaurant Review Thursday, June 30th, 2011
With only weeks before Pride, we all are watching our calories and carb intake so we are in the best shape to walk down University Avenue with our shirts off. For me, it is cutting out meat, eating a ton of vegetables, loading up on proteins and doing as much cardio as I can.
Normally on a Friday night, my friends and I get together for dinner in some restaurant in town. A few weeks ago, when I suggested we try a vegetarian restaurant, I thought everyone was about to drop their drinks. Begrudgingly they obliged, and at the end, they were glad they did.
Tao is labeled as a Vietnamese and Japanese restaurant and is hidden in a little spot on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights. Never once did I consider even reviewing the place since it is so out of the box from the norm. Alas, the food blew me away on every occasion so I must share with everyone this little secret.
Now don’t expect to go and see an over-designed and expensive costing dining room that we see in a lot of restaurants in San Diego. Think East Village or Chinatown neighborhoods in NYC in the ’80s and you will understand the style. This is a simple place and they make no excuses as to what and who they are.
With barely enough seating for 40, the tables line the walls that are loaded with graffiti of quips and autographs from the many patrons this place has seen over the years. There is no artwork for sale and the latest trendiest paint color is not on the walls, but the rawness of the room creates the charm and what put this restaurant on the map for me is its food.
Having a menu as large as they do, I was surprised to see how tasty everything was and at the value that it was offered. With entrées ranging from $8.99-$12.99, I was astonished at the portions and generosity seen. As you sit down every table is greeted with a complimentary house salad with fresh chunks of tofu and crisp fresh greens that are dressed in sweet vinaigrette.
The list of appetizers is truly a taste of Asia. Everything from satay’s of beef to miso soup to garlic chicken wings, it’s all there and delicious. A must try are the Wrap It Yourself Salad Rolls ($10). Served in fresh rice paper, with lettuce, mints, bean sprouts, cilantro and rice noodles, they are all rolled up with your choice of protein.
There must be at least 30 entrées to choose from, so ordering can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the staff are great and incredibly helpful. The menu is broken out in two ways, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. I will suggest however, you order your entrée vegetarian with tofu. This has to be the best tofu I have ever had: it is handmade fresh, daily.
Tofu braised in a Black Bean Sauce and Asian Kale ($10.50) came to my table with a large piece of tofu, atop perfectly cooked black beans, white (or brown rice) and topped with Asian Kale. The combination of flavors was explosive; I couldn’t get enough of the rich bean sauce. Another interesting flavor combination was the Tofu in a Sizzling Citrus Sauce ($10.50). The sweet and tangy sauce was intoxicating with the zucchini, asparagus and ginger. A sure show stopper.
If sauces aren’t your thing, try a rice pot. Tao’s handmade Tofu Rice Pot ($12) is to die for. Nothing is better for you than a big heaping bowl of steaming vegetables and tofu. Zucchini, shiitake mushrooms and broccoli are just a few of the vegetables that come in this cast iron bowl. I could eat this dish every day.
If you absolutely won’t try tofu or vegetarian cuisine, all the dishes also come with the option of chicken, beef or seafood. But I do urge you to try the tofu as you will not be disappointed.
3332 Adams Ave,
San Diego, CA 92116
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