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3/5

Loon Tao

43/12 College Avenue, Mount Lavinia.


Loon Tao, roughly meaning "Way of the Dragon" has lost its claim as a top contender in the Chinese restaurant racket.



Loon Tao, roughly translating to ‘The Way Of the Dragon’ has always leaned towards slightly more authentic East Asian flavours. One of the few semi fine-dining Chinese restaurants in Sri Lanka the Tao chain promises slightly more authentic Chinese cuisine in an elegant setting. While their promise holds true, Loon Tao’s claim as a top contender in the Chinese restaurant racket has waned drastically

This dragon is way off course- Being a native Lavinian myself I recall the breath of fresh air Loon Tao first brought into the Chinese restaurant scene. Never had Chinese dining been so elegant. Now that breath of fresh air seems to have combusted into the hot fiery puff of a grumpy dragon.

The Food

Loon Tao’s flavours aren’t typically Sri Lankan Chinese. They’re more Chi-Lankan – comprising of the typical East Asian bite of pepper, garlic and fennel blended to fit the Sri Lankan palette.Up until now I have never had great qualms with their food. It’s usually pretty good and is presented to please the olfactory, visual and gustatory.

I opened ranks with their hokkien style fried noodle with seafood at Rs.598. These are thick noodles, covered in a heavy coating of sauce and seafood. The creaminess rendered from the sauce in addition to the thickness of the noodles makes for a satisfactory and filling main. However I was mildly disappointed by the prawns in the seafood mix. While they were large, they felt slightly underdone; not tender in the least, with a slight rubbery texture. For a small portion the serving is actually fairly large- more than enough for two I’d reckon.

To accompany the main I got Sri Lanka’s favourite – A small portion of hot buttered cuttlefish (Rs.668), an unorthodox crispy deep fried beef (Rs.598) and pak choy (Rs. 498) . It’s ridiculous how every price including mineral water (Rs.198) ends with the figure eight. Unlucky much?

 While it certainly isn't the best The HBC was actually one of the better ones I’ve tried recently. For a small portion it was a fairly generous serving. It presents itself as one of the more flavourful, hotter options and has less of the annoying so called “vegetable garnish” other chinese restaurants fill the plate with. It was almost crisped to perfection, but wasn’t quite there yet either.

If you’ve always wanted to know what Kentucky Fried Beef tastes like the crispy deep fried beef is an excellent option texture-wise. The beef is tender although not flavour packed. It is an interesting option nevertheless with the floury flakes of the beef adding a nice crunch to the soft meat.

Their pak choy with garlic sauce, I felt needed a tad more garlic. The vegetables were wet, tasted fresh, but were altogether unexciting. It really hasn’t got the bite of other pak choy’s in town.

Service and Ambiance

The shoreline, which once made the experience at Loon Tao wonderful, has been washed away. It seems no one bothered to look into the ill environmental effects of the Colombo port city, and as a result much of Mount Lavinia’s coast has been eaten up by the sea. As a result waves break a few feet away from the Loon Tao entrance which is why I couldn’t get a shot of the restaurant's exterior. The interior all in all is clean, elegant and pretty spacious with wooden furniture adding a nice touch to the ambiance.

I didn’t like the service. Even Loon Tao’s younger brother Tsing Tao has never had the best service. The food was out in about 15 to 20 which is average to say the least. While the staff are courteous they don’t come across as pleasant and friendly. The steward who took my order, a local chap was attentive and the better of the lot. I did notice the other foreign staff seemed substantially friendlier with foreign guests.

Heck- they were bawling over an English family that came in- and at one point all three staff members on duty were at the table, with no one there to tend to the local guests. I had to wait a bit to ask for my bill too. This really isn’t an isolated incident because on a previous visit I noticed the indifferent attitude of one of the foreign staff. Crouching tiger, grumpy dragon?

If you want cheap Chinese food on the beach with much friendlier staff head to Sawadee.

Conclusion

I’m not sure which way Loon Tao’s Dragon is heading but it’s clear they’ve spiralled out of control. The food still retains a bit of what it had when it first started but service-wise they could use some refurbishment.


TIP

Three's a crowd - If you have the numbers get their Garupa done two different ways.

Address

43/12 College Avenue, Mount Lavinia.

Contacts

Report Inaccuracy

Open 11 to 3- Afternoon 6 to 11 - Evenings

Cuisine

Chinese Sri Lankan Chinese

Price Range

Between Rs. 1000 - Rs. 1500

Dish Types

Noodles Seafood Lamb Fish Beer Wine Spirits Cocktails

Ratings Breakdown

Overall Rating
3
Quality Rating
3
Service Rating
2
Ambience Rating
4
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