I’m usually skeptical of catch-all “Asian” restaurants that offer the cuisines of many countries under one roof. If I want good sushi, I go to a Japanese restaurant run by Japanese people. Good massaman curry? Thai Express, of course. I’m not saying that catch-all places can’t do a good job; they’re just usually not my first choice. But I kept an open mind when my girlfriend Casey and I headed to Mason’s Dao Modern Asian Cuisine on a recent Saturday evening.
There were plenty of guests at Dao when we arrived without a reservation around dinnertime, but we were seated right away in a big comfortable booth. We liked the sleek, stylish décor and there was a lot to look at. The hibachi chef was wowing some patrons at the flaming grill in the middle of the restaurant and servers were buzzing about.
Before our server arrived, we had time to seriously consider our drink options from their $7 cocktail and martini list. I chose the Asian Lychee Mojito, with Bacardi Limon, fresh mint and lychee liqueur. It was a little on the sweet side and the lychee gave it a light, refreshing quality. Casey ordered the Red Lotus, which also featured the tasty lychee liqueur added to vodka and cranberry juice. Some of the other interesting offerings were the Zombie (made with light and dark rum, vodka and juices), a Lychee Martini and a Chocolate Martini.
For appetizers we chose the Salt & Pepper Calamari ($6.95) and the Sushi Sampler ($8.95). The calamari was not the usual breaded rings and/or tentacles. They were long, thick strips scored in a crosshatch pattern and stir-fried. The large pieces of calamari had a lot of pokey edges that felt weird to eat, but they weren’t bad and the sweet ginger soy dipping sauce was a good match. They also have Calamari Katsu ($6.95), which is battered in panko if you prefer a more typical presentation.
The sushi sampler — which included nigiri: tuna, salmon, yellowtail and shrimp — wasn’t bad, but seemed like it might have been pre-assembled earlier instead of being made to order.
The menu seems enormous at first, but when you get down to it, it’s pretty typical Chinese and Thai noodle and fried rice dishes, plus a sushi menu and create-your-own hibachi options. I had a hard time deciding between my favorite typical Chinese dish, General Tso’s Chicken ($11.95) and Pad Thai ($9.95). I went with the Pad Thai with chicken because I’ve never met a Pad Thai I didn’t like. The portion was large and came to the table nice and hot. The noodles were a little softer than what I’m used to, but not overcooked. They didn’t ask me to specify how spicy I wanted it, but I’d say the spiciness level was about a three out of 10. So, not very spicy, but it was tasty and well made.
Casey ordered Sweet and Sour Chicken ($10.95). The batter seemed light and crispy instead of the all-too-common mushy scenario you get at other places. Big pieces of peppers and pineapple accompanied the chicken and rice, which was a nice touch.
Some of the signature entrées include Korean Bul Go Ki ($13.95), Mango Duck ($16.95) and Crispy Walnut Shrimp ($14.95). There are also several vegetarian and gluten-free options.
We ordered a Spider Roll ($8.95) from the Chef’s Special Roll menu for good measure. The Spider Roll contains tempura soft-shell crab, avocado, cucumber and daikon sprouts. The good thing about this spider roll was that the pieces weren’t too big to fit in your mouth like they usually are. We’re usually both adamant about getting our fair half of the spider roll, but I think we actually left a piece on the plate this time, unimpressed with the overall flavor and quality.
Lastly, we tried the green tea and red bean flavors of Mochi Ice Cream ($3.50) for dessert. Though the ice cream wasn’t very sweet, I was impressed that it wasn’t the stuff you can buy at Asian markets around town and seemed made in-house.
The strengths of Dao Modern Asian are its sheer number of offerings, comfortable atmosphere and large booze selection. Though it wouldn’t be my first choice for sushi, I’d stop in again if I was in the area and had a hankering for a big plate of noodles or to get in on the hibachi grill action.
Go: 5065 Deerfield Blvd., Mason
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $7.50-$24.95
Red Meat Alternatives: Plenty
Accessibility: Fully Accessible