Tao House Bistro

As big fans of Me Wah, we got a little bit excited to discover their former Chef was starring in the next iteration of 252 Macquarie Street.

This was our first visit to a restaurant that has changed hands a few times over the years. The inherent challenges of the space have been widely touted. From the street you enter the foyer and then into the bar. You go upstairs to the restaurant on the first level. As one large internal room, it’s not a space for intimacy or outlook. Although smaller, it has the feel of the yum cha venues in Sydney’s Chinatown.

The ground floor bar is an attractive area and guests are welcome to use it with or without an accompanying meal. The drinks menu features cocktails and in our opinion that’s a super reason to drop by. The Two Girls elected an Asian-inspired mojito featuring the ginger liqueur, domaine de canton, rum and fresh pear.

The menu is extensive, offering specials, hot and cold appetisers and has sections on meat, poultry, seafood and tofu, and fancy rice and noodles. Hotpots are a feature. There are options like sautéed squid and beef stir fry but The Two Girls found lots of dishes listed that offered new insights for us into Hong Kong and South Cantonese cuisine (or Yue cuisine which originates from Guangdong Province of China).

Specials included: Chinese pork knuckle hot pot, $26, fermented red bean curd broth, star anise and iceberg lettuce; XO salmon head, $22, and Chinese steamed egg, $26, mixed seafood, diced shitake mushrooms and seasonal vegetables.

We chose:

  • Peking duck rolls, $10, house-made Chinese pancakes, roasted duck meat, spring onion and hoi sin sauce (2 pieces).
  • Lotus bao, $12, lotus leaf flour bun, Mongolian lamb and sliced cucumber (2 pieces)
  • Fried filled tofu, $30, seafood mince, egg, shitake mushrooms and salted egg yolk coating (12 pieces) and
  • Yin Yang fried rice, $26, egg fried rice covered with Yin (chicken, onion and tangy tomato sauce) and Yang (prawns, green peas and creamy sauce) toppings.

The Peking duck came assembled, the duck fat was well rendered and the rolls equated to tasty, albeit, modest morsels. The bao was more generously stuffed and both entrees were perfectly edible and tasty.

Both our main choices were new to us. Our casual observation was that Tao House Bistro has a less anglicised menu than many Chinese restaurants, offering more traditional cuisine; something new to some or a taste of home for others. The table attendant felt the need to warn us about the salted egg yolk coating our tofu. It was sour she said. In the middle of our meal, another staff member appeared to check we were okay. It wasn’t something many people liked he said.

The Two Girls had absolutely no idea what we went skipping our merry way into except that it involved stuffed, fried tofu. And to be fair, their concern was in part justified. Salted egg yolk has a strong, fermented flavour and a gritty, dry texture. Unquestioningly, the dish was beautifully prepared, crispy fried, lovely tofu and cleverly constructed. As newbies to the flavours, it was something we approached with reserve rather than relish. We ate enough for dinner but no, we wouldn’t need to take the leftovers home thank you.

Almost as surprisingly was the Yin and Yang fried rice. This was a dish we could not have anticipated as we had no point of reference for it. Loaded with chicken and prawns, it was a substantial meal in itself and a tasty dish but unusual to have the thick, glutinous sauces covering fried rice. Apparently it’s not uncommon to mix the creamy sauce with the tomato sauce before eating although we ate each side separately to appreciate the distinct flavours and ingredients. We also learnt that it is a dish often served at weddings and is also sometimes called honeymoon rice. It was definitely better than roast silverside.

Was there dessert? We only have one which is fried milk we were informed. But it was a traditional dish that was hard to find even in Hong Kong restaurants. Tao House served a plate of three flavours: chocolate, strawberry and original. Did we want a fourth so it was easy to share? Too right! The semi-sweet set custard fried in a light and crispy batter was delicious.

We were pleased we tried Tao House even if the experience wasn’t completely comfortable. It was good to get a bit outside the comfort zone and really try something new to us and for this reason we rate Tao House Bistro and wish them the best.

We’d love to hear your experience when you go!

Find them on Facebook – Tao House Bistro
Other Chinese restaurants we enjoy – Me Wah of course and Mulan.

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