Since its opening in October 2013, TAO Downtown has been the talk of NYC. Tables packed with celebrities, Wall Street types hosting client dinners, and girls celebrating “girl’s nights out” fill the space and Tao’s décor is an experience in itself. I was incredibly excited, yet also nervous to go to TAO, as Asian food is difficult for a gluten free diet. Why? Naturally gluten free foods are drowned in soy, teriyaki and other nobread unfriendly sauces and sushi rice is malted with vinegar and other gluten culprits…
TAO’s menu is huge, and with so many options it can be difficult for both the gluten-free person and gluten-full person to decide what to order. Thankfully for us in the NOBREAD crowd, TAO recently updated their menu and an asterisk ‘*’ is used to indicate gluten free items! I love this new feature; however, only seven, yes SEVEN, menu items are accompanied by this asterisk. So what can you have? 100% GF orders include the edamame, pad thai noodles with chicken, shrimp, or lobster, jasmine white rice, miso soup, halibut, and wok-fried potatoes. Sashimi platters are also gluten free, although they are not listed on the menu, and these platters are even MORE delicious when you ask for gluten free tamari soy sauce. Although these are the only designated gluten free items on the menu, there are plenty of entrees you can make gluten free when you order them with no sauce! For example, my friend and I also indulged in the hamachi crudo no sauce, duck fried rice, octopus salad, and branzino!
My waiter informed me that several dishes on the menu, for example the famous Chilean sea bass skewers, are marinated for 24 hours in miso or other gluten-filled sauces, and cannot be made gluten free. Yes this is unfortunate, but I was incredibly impressed by my server’s knowledge of gluten free menu items and the preparation of each dish, and I was also pleased to see how he went out of his way to double check with the kitchen that everything I ordered was conducive to my diet!
Each time I go to Tao Downtown, I have an amazing experience. Being gluten free at TAO isn’t easy, but if you tell your server that you have an allergy or intolerance, they are more than accommodating. Great drinks, incredible ambiance, delicious food, and helpful service; TAO is well deserving of all its hype and I will absolutely be back soon.