Tarakaan tower salad
Tempura green beans
Tarakaan general manager Geoff Harmison and assistant general manager Nick Berezoski
Tarakaan executive chef Micah Rideout
A passage at Tarakaan
Tarakaan at night
Appearances can indeed be deceiving. Take the gutsy Tarakaan, which opens recently, a pan-Asian restaurant/bar in Midtown that resides inside the red-skinned geometric façade reworked by architect Stanley Tigerman for Knoll in the 1980s. (The building, which was erected decades before, once housed the Davis Baking Powder Company and Lipper Motor Cars.)
Past the rickshaw in the foyer and Tara, the imposing Buddhist tantric meditation deity, you’ll enter a Shangri-la conjured by Viviana Blandeau. She and owners Piran Esfahani and PJ Jamea have taken the 6,000-square-foot space back to the rafters to reveal the original brick walls and roof trusses, creating an opium-den-like space with rooms on different levels. In the main bar, Geisha girls etched with pigment sticks line the back wall, ushering patrons to try a blue blushing dragon or white orchid cocktail ($12 each).
Young chef Micah Rideout melds the flavors of Thailand, Malaysia, China, India and Indonesia. A child of American missionaries, he was raised in Chiang Mai, Thailand; along the way, he learned to cook the food of his adopted homeland. Here, Rideout serves shareable plates with ingredients and techniques so authentic to the East — i.e., palm sugar versus granulated to give a sweet balance to Pad Thai ($18) — that he often has to educate his colleagues on their use and origins.
Before he presses cooked pork hock for his bacon bowl ($18), he braises the meat in a Chinese master stock — such prized, flavorsome broths can be passed down for decades, infusing spice and flavorings from dishes past, to impart a complexity impossible to duplicate. I adored the miso brulée sea scallops with carrots cooked with cardamom spice, their fresh green tops puréed into a pesto sauce doled out in tiny dots ($23). I’d also order the glass noodle nabe ($17) again; studded with shrimp, candied bacon, ginger and pickled mustard greens, it makes for a harmonious tasting dish ($17).