The last time I visited Tao was at least 3 years ago, and many times before that, and it was generally a positive experience. I used to go to Tao often as it was really one of the few restaurants uptown that could combine both style and great food into one restaurant. However, on my recent visit to Tao I’ve noticed the restaurant has taken a turn for the worse. The restaurant is still beautiful and the giant Buddha sitting at the front of the main dining room is still as impressive as it was when Tao opened back in 2000. The restaurant has taken much more of a club vibe by featuring dancers and electric violinists during dinner service.
However, the menu has had a few changes over the past few years and the cuisine has changed from Japanese and Chinese to much heavier Thai influence. There is still a full sushi menu as well as several Chinese options, but I do see a much larger portion of the menu dedicated to Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Unfortunately Tao cannot fully guarantee there will be no cross-contamination with the food so I had to stick to the sushi menu just to be safe. Since I was apart of a large group, we were served a platter with everything off the sushi menu so I did get a chance to sample everything Tao offered. The sushi was a bit disappointing and I do remember it being much better on previous visits. There was an unnecessary amount of rice in the individual pieces and the fish was not as fresh as it used to be. The tuna specifically was a bit tough and the yellowtail was fishy though the salmon was a safe option. In regards to the cooked food, though I did not get a chance to try it on this visit the presentation did look a bit sloppy but I didn’t hear any complaints from the other diners at the table.
Perhaps Tao Group has put more energy into their newer restaurant Lavo across the street or perhaps with time Tao is beginning to deteriorate. While it remains a solid option when looking for a lavish restaurant in Midtown/Upper East Side, the kitchen definitely has seen better days and perhaps Tao could create a peanut/nut free menu since their regular menu is now a lot more dangerous for those who have nut allergies.