Speak of Pune's fast-growing culinary scene and JW Marriott's Tao-Fu would definitely get a mention. And rightly so! Helmed by Chef Fu Lei, embark on an exotic Sichuan journey that offers a mix of trusted Asian favourites (think baos & dimsums) along with some home-style, regional Chinese dishes that were inspired by his mother's cooking. After working at famed restaurants like the Park Hyatt, and Hyatt Regency, the Chinese-origin chef researched over 500+ dishes to put together a delectable menu that uses authentic ingredients (from his homeland) to capture a vast range of Oriental flavours.
Ambience Step inside the stylish restaurant and you'll be welcomed by the sweet chaos seen inside the vast open kitchen where the delicious fare is prepared to perfection. Just like the food, the interiors of the plush restaurant are also native to its region: you'll find traditional wooden partitions with hand-carved latticework between tables offering ample privacy, lanterns inspired by dim sum baskets, and even a dedicated Shabu Shabu area (hot pot room). You can choose to enjoy an Alfresco meal as the boujie restaurant has 2 impressive bars—one indoors and one outdoors—making it an ideal spot for date nights.
What we tried First up, we started with two Asian salads: a Chicken Salad marinated in Sichuan-style chili sauce, followed by the Black Fungi Salad which caught our attention, courtesy of its delectable and delicate dressing made with red chilli, soy, garlic and topped off with candied nuts. A refreshing surprise on the Hakka menu, the cold salads definitely packed a punch. As we ate our way through the meal, we explored a few classics like a tasty and crunchy Cheng Fung, sticky Pork Belly, and an innovative array of dim sums. We tried the steamed Crispy Cream Cheese, Prawn Hargao, New Zealand Lamb Puffs but the Shanghai Style Soup Dumplings were easily our favourite as it was a perfect to warm up during a winter afternoon.
What worked The biggest standout at Tao-Fu is the beautifully barbecued Peking Duck. Crispy duck skin marinated with five spices with a sprinkle of caster sugar. Alongside, melt-in-your-mouth strips of duck meat are sliced and rolled with crunchy cucumber, spring onion and a Beijing street-shop-style broad bean sauce, all held together in a pancake. Since it is all prepared on the table by the chef, it definitely makes for an Instagram-worthy moment during the meal. The mains were replete with dishes that sang harmoniously with Cantonese flavours—Sizzling Lamb, Prawns with Dang Long Chili and Chicken In Black Bean Sauce. For those who can handle the spice, we recommend sampling the Poached Fish with dried red chili and Sichuan peppers, which also happens to be chef Lei's go-to comfort meal. After trying generously sized portions of regional Cantonese we were extremely stuffed, but we couldn't skip the classic Sichuan glass noodles called "Ants Climbing On A Tree". Made with sweet potatoes and spicy pork the dish actually resembled little tiny ants climbing the branches of a tree.
What didn't work You'll be spoilt for choice with the 12 Chinese zodiac-inspired cocktails and a selection of tea-infused craft cocktails that are an ode to the tea culture in China. We tried the Kumquat with Oolong Tea and the Flaming Ice Tea made with gin, absinthe, hibiscus tea, honey and lemon juice, only to quickly realize that the tea cocktails weren't for the faint-hearted and could be liked only by a few with an acquired taste.
Our verdict After sampling the sumptuous spread at Tao-Fu, we only came to one conclusion: this Oriental restaurant has something special for everyone. And you'll definitely want to keep coming back to it!
Tarvene is a chocolate and chai fiend who is constantly on the hunt for cute cafes. You can catch her baking some Biscoff cheesecakes or binge-watching Netflix shows. She likes filling up her free time painting, listening to music or going on long drives.