While most people equate Las Vegas with gambling, I always think food. Not the cheap, greasy, all-you-can-eat buffets of yesteryear. I'm talking about world-class cuisine. Today, you can find some of the country's top restaurants in Las Vegas and those are what I enjoy most about the notorious Sin City.

TAO entry

During a stay at The Palazzo/Venetian earlier this year, I had an opportunity to experience some of the city's best offerings. One of my favorites was TAO Asian Bistro & Nightclub in The Venetian. TAO is a unique venue. I knew it was a hot party spot, rated the “best place to spot celebrities” by the readers of Las Vegas Review Journal, but I'm not really into the hot party scene. I wanted good food and a unique atmosphere. I found both in abundance at TAO. The atmosphere is the first thing you get when you enter the restaurant. The red color scheme and Asian design set the scene. There is a unique blend of calm and comfort, yet there is a sense of excitement and intrigue. The menu offers Pan-Asian foods, fusing traditional flavors and ingredients with modern techniques.

TAO creates its dishes for sharing and includes everything from dumplings, spring rolls, tempura and BBQ to seafood, fowl and beef, including American Kobe beef. I was there for drinks and appetizers and ended up eating more food than I do at some full meals.

I tried a selection of menu options, including:

  • Satay of chicken with peanut sauce ($11)
  • Spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice ($16)
  • Lobster wontons with shiitake ginger broth ($18)
  • Pork potstickers with a chile sesame glaze ($14)

Each one was exceptional, but my two favorites were:

  • Bamboo steamed vegetable dumplings with crunchy cucumbers ($12)
  • Satay of Chilean Sea Bass with wok roasted asparagus ($19)

The sea bass was one of the best fish dishes I've ever eaten. It is difficult to create little bites of fish that are full of flavor and not dry. This dish was completely successful at both and I still crave it. I have gotten particular about steamed dumplings. After eating them in Asia, many of the ones here in the US can't compare. The dumplings at TAO, however, are comparable to the ones I had at some of the best restaurants in Asia. They are cooked to perfection.

TAO venue

In addition to great food, in keeping with its reputation as high-profile lounge and nightclub, TAO has an impressive list of wines, specialty cocktails and a large selection of sake. I had a TAO-tini ($13), created with Absolut Mandarin, Stoli Raspberry, Malibu Rum, cranberry and fresh lime juice. It was a fun drink that went down way too smooth.

My evening at TAO was definitely not long enough. I planned to return for dinner, but with so many choices, I never made it back during that stay. It's on my list for next trip.

TAO Las Vegas is certified by Restaurants & Institutions as the highest-grossing restaurant in the US. The combination of great food and intriguing atmosphere make this possible. As the menu says:

TAO has no set rules. Be creative, live long, be happy and follow your own path… And the Emperor said, “let the party begin!”

Buddha at TAO

TAO is located in the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino at 3355 Las Vegas Boulevard, South.

The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to Midnight and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The lounge is open daily from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The nightclub is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Call 702-388-8338 for reservations. http://www.taolasvegas.com

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