This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture Courtesy: Kishore Amati
Talumein Soup, with its strong hues of orange
As far as Asian cuisine in the capital goes, there have been many establishments that have cropped up over the years. Some have stood the test of time, while others have shut up shop and moved on. Some have gone on to even garner a status that is ‘legendary’ though it is an opinion that I, personally, do not subscribe to. I do love oriental cuisine though, and of my favourite haunts within Panjim’s limits is one that is perhaps underrated: Tao.
I’ll be the first to admit that Tao’s menu is mainstream, and seemingly caters to the audience ‘at large’. They launched with an array of spectacular specials, but those too didn’t quite seem to captivate audiences, perhaps for want of a discerning clientele. And I’ll be the first to admit, that not everything on their menu has always wowed me. However, an insider’s tip at this juncture would be to advise anyone and everyone to please go eat their Nasi Goreng. It is my staple when it comes to dealing with that restaurant and it has NEVER disappointed. Please note that this is Pan Asian cuisine that we are dealing with, so no, chicken is not an option and barring health reasons, it never should be. Please do try the beef or pork variant, and if for reasons of faith you cannot, then deviate towards the option of shrimp; it’s worth it.
Which brings me to why Tao right now. A recent visit brought to my attention that they had launched into what they refer to as a Noodle Festival; and my word, who doesn’t like noodles? For me, personally I perceive noodles like I do risotto: comfort food. You put a sloppy portion into a bowl and then eat out of it, casting all cares for plating straight out the window. And with this noodle festival, there was something across every section of the menu, barring dessert. I was fortunate enough to sample a few of these before the curtain went up on the festival and I have my verdict on what must absolutely be tried.
From the soup segment of the menu (which is a section I very rarely visit, unless the restaurant, you guessed it, is Asian) my personal favourite was the Vietnamese Fish Meatball Soup with Flat Noodles. A clear, peppery broth with bok choy, lemongrass, fish meatballs and flat noodles, this soup is an absolute winner. Why? Because simply put, it’s simple and elegant. There is no grandeur and overstating. There is no grandstanding with many spices and colour. However, one should watch out for the bird’s eye chilli that goes into it. It gives you a delicious little kick at the back of your throat, but if you bite into one, I merely offer my commiserations.
From the main segment, I opted to try the Fried Kway Teow Noodles, which comprised thick rice noodles tossed along with seafood, bean sprouts, onion, carrot and bok choy again. The first thing I noticed here is how the soy doesn’t stand out too strongly. In fact, it’s a safe bet to say that it feels like the components of the dish have been tossed in a sauce that is closer to XO than soy. It’s got a hint of sweetness that soy doesn’t often lend, and in all honesty, it’s a better dish because of it.
Now I have harped on the fact that Tao is a little mainstream for my liking, but for those who love mainstream, you’re going to love what comes next. I didn’t order it, but hey, they have created Frankenstein’s monster and brought it to life by putting together what they have called Chilli Chicken Maryland Noodles. As the title suggests, it involves chilli chicken and soy-tossed noodles coming together in one dish. And there is absolutely no denying that chilli chicken is the most sought after dish on the Indian-Chinese culinary market. Another old favourite that finds its way on to this menu is American Chop Suey, which has of course, zilch to do with America, and yet remains an all-time favourite with its characteristic crisp fried noodles sitting beneath a fried egg and above a tomato-based sauce with mixed vegetables and pineapple thrown in for good measure.
There was much more on the festival menu, or so much to mention that I cannot possibly, do justice to it all. Many of these have apparently now become permanent residents on the menu, since the festival has since ended. But all that being said, you should go over to Tao and check it out for yourself.
Tao is extremely mainstream, but have a few off-beat dishes that should be tried, such as the Nasi Goreng.
Located on an off-shoot of central Panjim, yet on the main road that leads to Miramar, it is an ideal place for a quick stop for lunch, and parking is hardly ever an issue.
The average cost of a meal for two (minus the libations) would be an approximate of ₹1,500 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
A-1, Pinto Arcade, Opposite Panjim Gymkhana, Campal, Panjim, Goa 403001
Food is a huge part of any culture and for me, chancing upon a good meal is synonymous with having a great day. The What’s On My Plate series of posts is where I discuss food, great places to eat, and anything gastronomically moving. This could be anything from a great place to eat, to an obscure kind of food, to an origin story. After all, there is no love like the love of eating.