The Tao of Sushi

  • 2008-04-16
  • By Chris Brown

Elegant dining: Tao minimalist design may be a cliche but it still works a treat.

TALLINN - When attempting to determine what constitutes quality sushi, the best description can often be found in the form of a contradiction.  Sushi is well put together when you get the sense that it is not, in fact, fishy.

Thankfully, as one of the new entries into the Tallinn sushi market, Cafe Tao succeeds in creating sushi that has much more in common with a seaside breeze than it does with a stroll through a dockside fish market.
Located on the ground floor of the recently opened Swiss Hotel (Tornimae Arikeskus, Tornimae 5), Cafe Tao has the modern minimalist look that seems to be a basic requirement for opening Japanese restaurants in this day and age. While the interior design is cliche, it still manages to create a comfortable atmosphere that works well for casual dining and will certainly go over well with the mid to upscale crowd that they are aiming for. 
Certain weekends also provide the opportunity to catch live musicians performing.  At other times, however, loud jazz makes low level shouting a requirement of casual conversation. 

The appetizer menu is brief but holds a number of smaller, less common dishes that deserve a sampling. The duck wontons are an interesting intrusion into a domain usually inhabited by pork or shrimp. You can also find the better-known tempura shrimp and grilled vegetables available in the starter section.
The heart of the menu is of course the sushi, and it's pleasing to note that there is a large selection of reasonably priced and well prepared nigiri (sushi presented with plain rice), maki (sushi alone or combined with vegetables in a rice and seaweed/algae roll), and futomaki (larger versions of maki with additional ingredients) available.  The salmon futomaki is particularly tasty. 

Simplicity is at the core of sushi, but ensuring that no tastes or flavors are overwhelmed is an essential aspect of good preparation. The salmon exceeds in this category, combining fish, cucumber and avocado while being surrounded by bok choy 's it will never be overwhelmed or overwhelming as it moves through your mouth. 
The California rolls are also very true to the original.  There is always the danger of letting the sauce, usually some variation of mayonnaise, overwhelm the key ingredients and turn it into a seafood casserole by way of a finger food.  However, as with the salmon futomaki, the focus is where it should be, with the crab and avocado making a smooth and refreshing blend with the sauce letting the stars shine in the spotlight. 
The nigiri offerings were solid, with some nine different selections, but there was little there that really stuck out as being spectacular. 

For a city that not so long ago had little to offer by way of quality sushi, the speedy internationalization of cuisine in the city is a refreshing and welcome event.  Cafe Tao, fills an important place in Tallinn's spectrum of restaurants by providing a respectable quality, authentic, sushi experience at an affordable price.

Cafe Tao
Tornimae 5, Tornimae Arikeskus
Tel. 6164407
Mon. 'sThurs. 9:00-23.00
Fri. 9.00-24.00
Sat. 10.00-24.00
Sun. 10.00-22.00