Saturday, October 1, 2016

Lao Tao Street Food: Modern, Tasty Taiwanese in the Heart of Chinatown

Food lovers have been flocking to Far East Plaza for Korean/Asian fusion bowls or Nashville style hot chicken, and now they have another reason to visit: it's called Lao Tao Street Food, a serene nook of a space upstairs from Chego, and serving fantastic Taiwanese street food inspired fare that lives up to its name (which translates to foodie, and has its origins in an ancient, mischievous creature who ate everything he could find).

It's been soft open since mid-September, just for lunch...

...and I was impressed with everything I've had.

One of my absolute favorites by first time professional Chef David Wang so far has been the Century Egg Tofu Salad ($6): it's a very simple yet well balanced and super satisfying dish made of century eggs (preserved duck eggs), soft silky tofu, pork floss to add textural contrast and bit of sweetness, chopped scallions for crisp crunch and pops of color, and hong you (Sichuan chile oil) for hint of heat and to tie all the ingredients together.

For eggs that are essentially black/grey in color from the preservation process, I know it sounds weird to describe them as super fresh, but the best ones really are the ones that taste 'fresh': the yolk is creamy/buttery, full of luscious umami, and the parts formerly known as 'whites' are translucent and like a medium firm gelatin that is still structured and springy to the bite.

I was so excited to be able to have this dish since I don't remember having any century egg dish this eyes-rolled-back good since Yung Kee in Hong Kong. A definitely must get on any visit.

Taiwanese street food  chicken neck roll
Then there was the curiously named 'Chicken Neck' Roll ($7) - which is not actually made with chicken neck, but pork and fish paste stuffed into fried tofu skin.  A nice delicious balance of crisp crunch outside and a fish-ball like consistency inside.

Lao Tao beef noodle bowl
Lao Tao offers a number of far too easy to eat bowls on their 'mains' section.  My favorite so far is Beef Ban Mian ($12), made with wide flat noodles that are coated with 8-hour bone marrow broth.  It's inspired by Nou Rou Mian, or beef stew noodle soup, but instead of putting the noodles and beef shank in a heavy broth / stew, the noodles are generously coated in a sauce made with broth, concentrated with flavor after hours of slow-cooking.  Pickled greens add nice touch of acidity to cut through the umami / fat, and cubes of tomatoes add nice juicy bursts of color and texture contrast.  Again this bowl is remarkably well balanced in flavor, texture and presentation.

As if there weren't already enough things to love about the place, they also offer my favorite tea: osthmanthus oolong on their drink menu.

You almost can't tell that this is the product of first time restaurant chef-owners - if not for their pure heart, love for food, humility, (FOH staff led by partner Ying Xie's) friendliness and eagerness to seek feedback.

Definitely wishing this neighborhood gem much success. And excited to see how they evolve the menu.  Lao Tao's grand opening is coming up October 4th - check them out soon!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites  
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience -  6 stars
Service - 6.5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 100% 


Lao Tao Street Food

727 N Broadway #207, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Ph: 213.372.5318
Parking: underground structure below Far East Plaza (1 hour free with validation)


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