Searching for buckwheat noodle salads, authentic bamboo steamed shrimp or boba teas? They’re all hidden in plain sight at Tao Asian Fusion in Pismo Beach.
The small, unassuming restaurant opened on Hinds Avenue in March 2015, just a block from the beach. Though barely a clam’s throw from busy Cypress Street, it’s still under the radar of many diners.
Tao Asian Fusion offers a calm respite from the typically bustling atmosphere of downtown Pismo Beach. Relax indoors at one of several tables, or keep an eye on the action from stools positioned inside and outside along the long window overlooking Hinds Avenue.
As the restaurant’s name suggests, Tao Asian Fusion borrows aspects from several cultures’ cuisines.
“We didn’t want to limit ourselves,” said Faye Xu, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Tao Wang. “We wanted to develop dishes with an open mind, be creative and offer things not everyone has — a different generation of Asian food.”
That approach has resulted in tasty combinations throughout the menu. For example, the hearty Chinese wor won ton soup features a housemade broth reminiscent of Japanese ramen, while a curry sauce is made with Indian spices and coconut milk indicative of Thai cuisine.
Tao Asian Fusion’s menu even includes nods to American palates. A popular seared ahi filet comes with avocado, waffle fries and Asian slaw tossed with cucumber wasabi ranch dressing. Or you can order pillowy slider-style steam buns filled with your choice of pork, vegetable or tofu.
In addition, there are several options of unbattered, house-seasoned French fries — wasabi, Sichuan or Mandarin — served with dipping sauces as varied as plum chili and hoisin ketchup.
The couple’s approach focuses on quality ingredients, even if they take a little more time to source and/or prepare.
Instead of using dried noodles in the chow mein, Xu managed to find a fresh Asian pasta for the dish. Shrimp are peeled in–house, and all the sauces and slaws are made from scratch daily.
“If I don’t like (the ingredient),” Xu said, “I can’t expect anyone else to like it.”
Attention is also paid to the restaurant’s packaging, especially since takeout is a frequent option for patrons. Xu noted that all the environmentally-friendly containers are BPA-free — a plus for anyone taking them home or to a hotel room and putting them in a microwave.
Even the beverage cups reduce waste and spillage, thanks to the use of a unique heat-sealed plastic film on top instead of a separate lid. To drink out of the cups, simply pierce the plastic with a straw.
Among the refreshing beverages at Tao Asian Fusion are iced jasmine green tea, a passion fruit slush and a strawberry lemonade smoothie. Also available are bobas — Taiwanese tea-based drinks to which tapioca balls or fruit jellies have been added.
Those drinks were at the heart of Xu and Wang’s original plan. The couple initially planned to open a boba tea shop nearby.
When the building’s owner, a friend of theirs, asked if they might be interested in a slightly larger spot around the corner, the couple decided to go for it and expanded their business concept into a full-fledged restaurant.
At the time, the space that Tao Asian Fusion now occupies was a barbershop. Turning that space into a fully compliant restaurant with all the necessary equipment took almost a year.
“It was crazy,” Xu said, “but worth it, because now it just seems meant to be.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tao Asian Fusion
220 Hinds Ave., Pismo Beach (just northeast of Cypress Street)
805-295-6668 or www.facebook.com/TaoPismo
Hours: 10 a.m to 9 p.m. daily
The scene: A small, sleek, quiet eatery in the heart of downtown Pismo; takeout available in environmentally-friendly, BPA-free containers.
The cuisine: An Asian fusion approach offers aspects of various cuisines, from Chinese to Japanese to American.
Expect to spend: Starters and sides under $10, entrées under $15.