ICONIC BRAND HEADS TO DOWNTOWN NEW YORK CITY WITH NEW FLAGSHIP RESTAURANT
TAO Group, the pioneers of the Pan-Asian trend that swept New York City over a decade ago, unveils the evolution of the TAO brand today with the opening of TAO Downtown.
The TAO Group is considered to be a leading restaurant and nightlife company that develops, owns and operates many of the most successful food and beverage facilities in the United States. The TAO Group partners include principles Marc Packer, Richard Wolf, Noah Tepperberg, Jason Strauss, as well as managing partners Paul Goldstein, Bill Bonbrest,
Ralph Scamardella, Kim Kurlanchik Russen, Louis Abin, Andrew Goldberg and Rich Thomas. Collectively the 11 native New Yorkers are the creators of TAO Asian Bistro, Nightclub & Beach and LAVO Italian Restaurant & Nightclub.
Both TAO & LAVO have locations in Las Vegas (Venetian & Palazzo Resorts) and in New York City (58th Street between Park & Madison Avenues). Together, the group has also opened The Stanton Social (2005), Avenue (2009) and Beauty & Essex (2010), in New York City; they also operate all food and beverage outlets at Dream Downtown (2011), including PH-D Rooftop, Electric Room, Marble Lane Steak Joint + Bar and Melvin’s Juice Box, a partnership with Melvin Major Jr. As the owners of Marquee New York, which was re-launched in 2013 after a decade of success, the group opened Marquee Las Vegas, followed by its first property outside of the United States, Marquee – The Star, Sydney, Australia, in March 2012, as a joint venture with The Star’s parent company, Echo Entertainment. In November 2012, TAO Group partnered with Chef Laurent Tourondel to open Arlington Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This October, TAO Group unveiled the next iteration of the iconic TAO brand with the opening of TAO Downtown, beneath New York City’s Maritime Hotel.
Since its inception in 2000, TAO Uptown, well-known for spurring the trend of “vibe-dining,” has been a national and international hotspot. Following nearly a decade of bicoastal success, TAO Group showcases the next iteration of this iconic brand at TAO Downtown, located beneath the Maritime Hotel. Spanning an entire city block (approximately 22,000 sq ft.), every element has been meticulously planned from a menu based on culinary fact-finding trips throughout Asia to decorative items sourced during trips abroad.
“We’ve spent over ten years perfecting what TAO represents,” said Partner Rich Wolf. “This isn’t just a ‘second location’ of TAO in New York City; it is the next iteration of our brand. Devoted fans will still feel at home, but there are many elements that distinguish the restaurant from its sister locations. This is what guests can expect from us moving forward.”
The menu, designed by Chef/Partner Ralph Scamardella and his culinary team, comprised of Executive Chef Yoshi Kojima (formerly of Morimoto, Oahu and Jai by Wolfgang Puck) and Executive Chinese Chef Ooi Soon Lok (formerly of Jin Xuan in the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai and Hakkasan, Miami), draws inspiration from the group’s varied backgrounds and expertise.
“We approached this menu as New Yorkers who have seen this city’s experience and perspective of Asian cuisine change drastically over the last decade,” said Chef Scamardella. “We’ve studied in kitchens abroad and brought in talent from overseas with the number one goal of delivering authentic, flavorful dishes that celebrate old-school techniques and cooking as diverse as are the regions of Asia.”
While continuing to celebrate the flavors of Cantonese, Japanese and Thai cuisines that are deeply rooted in the brand’s origins, TAO Downtown’s menu spans a larger breadth of Asian influences, ranging from Hunan and Szechuan-style cooking to the flavors of Singapore and Malaysia, inspired by the group’s research abroad. Dishes like Singapore Shrimp and Kueh Pie Ti, traditional Malaysian crispy shells served with various fillings, only begin to showcase the chefs’ mastery of age-old techniques and understanding of classic Asian flavor pairings. New signature dishes include offerings from sea, sky, and land, such as Crispy Snapper in the Sand, Roasted Chicken Chow Mein, served with hand-pulled noodles made fresh daily in-house, and Wagyu Sukiyaki. Guests can also anticipate an updated selection of sharable plates, ranging from house-made Dim Sum and traditional Yakitori skewers to an assortment of Barbeque, Tempura and small plates, such as Ju Ju Chicken, a spin on Japanese fried chicken served in a hot clay pot. New noodle and rice dishes feature items like Shanghai Fried Rice, which is served inside a thin egg crepe, MaPo Tofu Noodles and Pork Belly Black Fried Rice. Furthering TAO’s commitment to quality, a three-level fish tank was installed in the restaurant’s kitchen, where live catch are delivered daily. A small selection of dishes from TAO Uptown’s menu have been re-imagined at TAO Downtown to satiate all cravings.
Turning the traditional-style sushi bar experience on its head, the sushi bar has been reinvented at TAO Downtown to encourage group dining and easy sharing for parties larger than two via an amoeba-like shape. The sushi menu features new specialty rolls like Glazed Tuna and Wild Mushroom, which will be offered along with the freshest sushi and sashimi, available by the piece or platter. Paying homage to small sushi counters in Japan that offer hot and cold plates in addition to fresh fish, TAO Downtown’s sushi bar includes a separate kitchen where expert sushi chefs create items like Tuna Hamachi Tataki, and Tuna Sashimi with Parmesan, served with tomato wasabi salsa and a crispy sesame stick. Unique to TAO Downtown, those who select Omakase at the sushi bar are also able to enjoy off-the-menu hot and cold items created at the dedicated sushi kitchen and solely available in this area of the restaurant.
Desserts, created by Pastry Chef Michelle Kogen (formerly of Nobu) include Taiwanese Shaved Ice, made on a machine flown in from Hong Kong, and Thai Coffee Custard, with mandarin sorbet and cocoa crunch. Beverage Director Keith Nelson has also crafted a menu of ten new specialty cocktails including Shiso TAO-Hito and 5-Spice Cherry Manhattan as well as an extensive wine list with over 200 varietals and sake selection featuring 30 sakes by the bottle and 25 by the glass.
Designed by Rockwell Group, TAO Downtown offers a distinct sense of arrival and discovery and is the first TAO venue where guests descend into the multi-level space. The subterranean restaurant is intended to look and feel as if it has been there for decades and only unearthed recently to reveal the artifacts within. Upon arrival, guests immediately encounter a long corridor with a dragon scale patterned screen and Chinese calligraphy murals mounted on weathered brick walls. Once inside the main room, a grandiose 40-foot staircase becomes the focal point of the impressive space, serving as the first “wow moment” and providing aerial views of the scene below. Specially-crafted banquettes are tucked within the grand staircase, offering prime seating amongst a diverse array of intriguing statues and sculptures sourced abroad. Custom-made, beaded-tassel light fixtures and oversized lantern-like pendants provide warm lighting within the high-ceilinged restaurant. Playing off the aged, vintage aesthetic, UK street artist HUSH, renowned for his artful Eastern images of feminine beauty and sensuality, has hand-painted original mixed media murals throughout the cavernous space.
Two custom-made Buddhas, over 16-feet in length, bookend the space and keep a watchful eye over the restaurant and its guests. The reclining Buddha greets guests immediately prior to the restaurant revealing itself, while the Quan Yin, replete with 24 hands, sits atop a koi pond, acting as the anchor of the main dining room. A floor-to-ceiling patterned screen frames the Quan Yin and accentuates the statue’s hands, which represent her ability to render assistance; she will be brought to life through 3D projection mapping technology developed in Rockwell Group’s LAB, which utilizes ten animations such as a waterfall flowing down the Quan Yin’s body and blinking eyes to seemingly transform before guests’ eyes.
TAO Downtown will seat up to 400 throughout the restaurant, with approximately 300 in the main dining room alone. The restaurant offers two signature “Sky Box” dining options located on the upper level and overlooking the main dining room, with seating for up to 20. Additionally, two Private Dining Areas on the main level, named “East Quan” and “West Quan,” reside on either side of TAO Downtown’s Quan Yin Buddha and seat up to ten. The restaurant’s lounge area, named the Ink Bar, is located on the Eastern mezzanine and offers additional seating for guests to enjoy TAO Downtown’s full food and beverage menus.
TAO Downtown is located at 92 Ninth Avenue (between 16th and 17th Streets). Dinner is served Sunday – Wednesday, 5:00PM – 1:00AM, and Thursday – Saturday, 5:00PM – 2:00AM. For reservations, please call 212-888-2724, or visit www.taodowntown.com for more information.