January 9, 2013

Dine out Maine: Tao takes you on a heavenly journey, one small plate at a time

By NANCY HEISER

(Continued from page 1)

20121004_TAO
click image to enlarge

Cara Stadler opened Tao in June after building her culinary resume with restaurateurs in Beijing, Shanghai and France.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

DINING REVIEW

TAO

22 Pleasant St., Brunswick. 725-9002; tao-maine.com

**** 1//2

HOURS: 5 p.m. to close Tuesday to Saturday. Tao will close for vacation from Jan. 29 to Feb. 12.

CREDIT CARDS: Mastercard, Visa and Discover

PRICE RANGE: $5.80 to $15.80 for small plates meant to be shared

VEGETARIAN: Yes

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes

KIDS: Welcome

RESERVATIONS: Yes; strongly suggested on weekends

BAR: Full. Intriguing wine list and specialty drinks, beer, plum wine, sake

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: Uncommon food prepared expertly, with special attention to new and complementary flavors, textures and visuals. The results are surprising and enticing. A creative kitchen melds the best of Far East seasonings and food with local ingredients when possible, and seldom gets it wrong.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

* Poor  **Fair  ***Good ****Excellent *****Extraordinary. 

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

Stadler, who opened Tao in June in partnership with her mother, Cecile, has an impressive culinary background working with renowned restaurateurs in Beijing, Shanghai and France.

Tao's atmosphere is a stylish and attractive combination of contemporary decor with graceful Asian touches. The entry has comfortable low sofas, and the bar is set at a striking angle near the kitchen. On the holiday weekend we visited, our server said she wasn't a regular, and there were a few details on the menu about which she wasn't well versed. But other than that, service was gracious and careful from phone reservation to exit.

In a recent 2012 roundup article, New York Times restaurant reviewer Pete Wells wrote, "Arguing about whether cuisine can be art is fruitless, but without question great restaurants have the same power to reshape our perceptions."

That's Tao. I've felt that way on every visit, and I've been four times. With a few exceptions, each dish is like encountering a new miniature work of art.

I find it remarkable that this well-traveled, 25-year-old chef is turning out such uncommon food after just six months in business.

Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer and editor. She can be reached at:

nancyheiser.com

 

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