Fusion, where you always find pro and con, gets a lift at Dao. It's an Asian travelogue, fueled by dishes Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian . . . so far. Most are very good. And the "Here-we-are!" design suits the eclectic approach, too, from serene to showy, with plenty of glass and dark wood, an ornate ceiling and a colorful fish tank, a lounge-like entrance and a dining room poised to expand. Maybe the recession really is over.
Dao delivers an Asian spin on lobster bisque, generous and fine; and a shrimp-laden Vietnamese riff on the hot-and-sour theme. Roti canai, the thin Indian bread, receives a Malaysian transfer and a spicy chicken curry dip. Tender chicken satay stands out with a tasty peanut sauce. The savory chicken-lettuce wrap, a version of chicken Soong, is juiced up with Thai spices. Try the green papaya salad for a purist intermezzo; or the salad of grilled beets, goat cheese, pine nuts and a balsamic reduction for a Western side trip. Traditional nigirizushi: first-class, especially fatty tuna and fluke. Special rolls, such as the tiger roll, mix up flavors and generally provide a good show: the "playboy" combines spicy salmon, peppered white tuna, avocado and crunchy roe with a Thai chile-and-wasabi mayo sauce. Vietnamese fish sauce complements the thin, honey-glazed pork chop. "Pinenut prawns" find pignoli, mango, apple, jicama and peppers in a snappy Malaysian-style sauce. A Thai sweet-sour chile sauce spurs the crisp red snapper. Go classic with the moist, crisp-skinned Beijing duck served with lotus buns. Pad Thai and udon noodles both work. Turn dinner post-fusion with New York cheesecake.
Jalapeños overwhelm yellowtail; beef negimaki, underseasoned. Routine shrimp-and-vegetable tempura, slightly better miso soup, standard-issue pork dumplings, bland bird's nest entree. Kobe-style beef with truffle sauce strains the wallet and credulity. When the "grand slam pie Snickers" arrives, you know it's past tea time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Lively mix and match.