The Unvegan

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The Pre-Club Meal at Tao

Have dumpling with me.

If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you’ve probably heard of a nightclub called Tao in the Venetian. But did you know there was also a restaurant called Tao? No? Well neither did I, but when I went to Vegas, my buddy had an elaborate plan of attack one night. First, he found out that the restaurant existed. Next, he found out that you could get into the club for free if you eat at the restaurant. Lastly, he made us a reservation for the place at 9:45 for some pre-club eating. Not much of a clubber, I just hoped the food would be good enough to enjoy without that extra clubbing incentive.

Arriving right on time, we were asked to take a seat in the lounge to wait for our table. Thinking this would only take a couple minutes, we obediently took a seat. Then we waited. And waited. And finally, after 25 minutes of sitting around waiting for our reservation, we were actually seated. So far no good. We were taken to a table upstairs and at that point I realized that the restaurant was pretty huge and also had a pretty cool interior design, including a colossal Buddha that could rival the Daibutsu of Todaiji, sitting in a fountain.

Soon after being seated, we were greeted by a friendly and very helpful waiter. He helped us around the menu and we decided to start the meal off with their Crispy Lobster and Shrimp Dumplings ($16). Then, for my main course I chose their Kung Pao Chicken ($26). I wasn’t expecting it to be authentic, but I figured a mainstream place like this could at least make it well and still leave me room for beer afterward. But while ordering, I was so hungry, I completely forgot to ask about any vegetables. It would prove to be a mistake.

Lots of dangerous vegetable colors.

The dumplings ended up tasting pretty good. I’m not sure they were worth the full 16 bucks, but since they had lobster I was willing to give Tao the benefit of the doubt. Then came my main course. As usual, my lack of asking about vegetables led to a veggie-laden dish. Sprinkled throughout were onions and peppers. Luckily for Tao, they were cut so huge, it was pretty easy navigating myself around them while eating. The real part of my meal wasn’t too shabby either. The chicken was juicy and their “Kung Pao” sauce, although tasting nothing like real Kung Pao, at least had some good flavoring. The peanuts seemed like kind of an afterthought and had definitely not been mixed in while the meat was cooking. Instead, they were just sort of tossed on to make the food prettier after all the cooking was done.

So was it worth the 26 bucks? Dear God no. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I also could have paid 7 bucks for the same food at the Chinese take-out place around the corner. Yet, in this case I was not simply paying for the food. Instead, I was paying for ambiance and a free trip to the Tao nightclub (where I stayed for about 12 minutes before heading to the Black Jack tables). So in this regard, I could have had a lot worse food and a much worse experience. Ultimately, Tao is a good idea if you really want to hit up their club. Otherwise, you can definitely find better food (and wait time) in Vegas.