Last Updated: January 7, 2015
Located on the second floor of Asia Square’s cavernous food court, TAO Seafood Asia is a tiny oasis of calm surrounded by an array of salad bars, noodle joints, and fast food. Most of the office traffic will brush TAO Seafood Asia off as just another swanky offshoot of one of Singapore’s mega Chinese restaurant chains (e.g. Crystal Jade) but in reality, this new kid on the block specializes in Thai-Teochew cuisine and is a true blue independent.
Helmed by the newly “un-retired” Chef Lee Tong Kuon, former executive chef and ex co-owner of Thai Village, and managed by his son, Adrian; TAO Seafood Asia champions sustainable seafood – more points from Green Peace.
The unassuming but firm Chef Lee had a keen interest in cooking from a young age but never took the plunge until his forties. It was through an unexpected series of meetings that he ended up under the mentorship of Thai chef and entrepreneur, Preecha Jangsombatsiri (commonly known as Ping), rapidly rising to becoming his protégé.
Rich simple flavours with a focus on quality is one of the important traits of Chef Lee’s dishes.
The décor is typical of a traditional Chinese restaurant, going for simple homely uncomplicated colours – velvety, lucky red and elegant white. The colour red has a hunger inducing effect helping one to savour the delicious flavours to come.
Chilled Jellyfish Salad 涼拌海蜇 (S$10++). This vinegary cold dish is synonymous with many Chinese restaurants but Chef Lee takes it to a whole new level with the use of the jellyfish head. It adds more crunch to the regular stringy bits of tentacles making it a pleasing palate cleanser. Considering the line up of dishes for the night, the jellyfish is also known for its digestive properties.
Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Sauce 咸蛋脆鱼皮 (S$10 ++). Every crunchy piece of fish skin was generously coated with a fine layer of salted egg yolk and it pairs well with the special green chili sauce, made in-house using ingredients sourced from Thailand. The savoury goodness makes it a good side to pair with a nice cold beer.
TAO SEAFOOD ASIA Signature Soup 饕聚精致汤品 (S$68++ per person). Signature soups tend to be disappointments but not this one. The al ‘natural chicken based broth was thick, had copious chucks of crabmeat, succulent Chinese mushrooms, and collagen rich fish maw. Typically you see dried spongy fish maw in soups, but for this soup they use fresh fish maw which makes quite a difference for its firm bite, almost like mushroom.
Chef also recommends to mix some of the special green chilli sauce halfway through the dish for a mild spicy tang which completely changes the flavour. A great alternative to the shark’s fin broth, this is certainly a sustainable dish.
Pot Roasted Cod 锅烧鳕鱼 (S$38++). A simple dish with coriander and whole cloves of garlic, it was juicy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with charring “wok-hei” done well on the delicate pieces of fish meat. The whole dish is roasted in a metal pot with an assortment of garlic, onions, vegetables, a bit of pork and other savoury goodness to really enhance the flavour. Another dish of culinary excellence.
Stir Fried Fish Maw with Prawns 鱼鳔炒虾 (S$44++). Put your mobile phones and cameras away and please dig into this dish the minute it’s served. The taste and structure of this dish changes rapidly within minutes after leaving the wok. This is one of the dishes exhibiting Chef Lee’s calibre with crunchy and springy pieces of fish maw – a welcome change from the usual chunks of oily, soggy and mushy fish maw. The time to eat it is really sensitive though as mentioned, so act fast before it turns soft.
Pot Roasted Crab with Glass Noodles 锅烧冬粉蟹 (S$45++). A Thai-Teochew staple, we got a first hand experience watching Chef Lee whip this dish up in the kitchen – he certainly made it look easy peazsy. The glistering strands of Chinese vermicelli were deeply-infused with the smokiness of the very succulent and sweet crab along with loads of garlic. This was definitely a very heart warming dish much enjoyed by all.
White Pepper Crab 白椒螃蟹 (S$6++ per 100g). Not many Chinese restaurants offer this variety of pepper crab- most would serve the black pepper version. The white pepper sauce, cooked with SCS butter gives this huge Sri Lankan crab a unique aroma and accentuates the crab’s juices. For those who avoid having crabs fearing the mess, TAO Seafood makes your life easy with the provision of plastic gloves.
They even go above and beyond and crack the shells on the giant pincers allowing the sauce to soak in and the sweet and fresh meat to slide with ease into your salivating mouths. It’s not an easy technique to cook crabs where the meat peels off the shell easily, but TAO Seafood has this skill mastered.
Clockwise from top left: Sea Coconut with Longans (S$6++), Snow Fungus with Red Dates and Gingko Nuts (S$8++) & Guilin Herbal Jelly (S$6++). A selection of nourishing traditional Chinese desserts – culminating in a simple yet refreshing finale to a cholesterol-rich meal. The herbal jelly was especially good, with just an appropriate amount of herbal bitterness complimented by a smooth honey drizzled onto it.
To sum up, TAO Seafood Asia delivers an honest mix of food that is true to the spirit of traditional Chinese dining right in the heart of the financial district. Truly a foodie’s mecca well-deserving of many more return visits.
Expected Damage: $100-150/pax