May 29, 2011

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐

Address: 台北市忠孝東路四段218號
                 No. 218, Section 4, Zhong Xiao East Rd, Daan District
Phone #: 02-2721-7890
Business Hours: 10:00~14:30 , 16:00~22:00
Price Range:   $$$
Accepts Credit Cards: yes
Attire: casual
Good for kids: yes
Take out: yes
Waiter Service: yes
Outdoor seating:  no
Alcohol: yes


Food Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Decor:  3.5 out of 5
Service: 3.5 out of 5
Overall: 3.83 out of 5
Recommendation: Favorite/Popular "Little Basket Dumpling" Restaurant


Din Tai Fung is an extremely popular bamboo basket dumpling restaurant with locations outside of Taiwan. It would rank in the top 3 must-eat restaurants when visiting Taiwan, and not without good reason. The difference in their dumplings skin and quality of their fillings set them apart from their competitors. Their intricate and delicate culinary craft allows them to provide their unique and top-notch renditions of fairly commonplace Chinese dishes. You will not regret giving Din Tai Fung a try.
 This is the Zhong Xiao Branch location, and I would not recommend visiting this one based on its dining space arrangement. I am ashamed to say that I can't taste the difference between the Original location, Zhong Xiao location, the Fushing location, or the Hsin Chu Location. There is a stark constrast between the Taiwanese restaurants and the one in Arcadia, California though. Since I can't tell the difference between the Taiwanese locations, I prefer the Fushing location because the interior is a little nicer. The Zhongxiao location seemed overcrowded and the servers were way too busy. Although, they have a pretty good system with the cooking and serving of your order. On the receipt you can see time stamps of when to serve each item and they were very prompt and spot on with bringing you your food. However, they were not as attentive to the refilling of tea, but its probably because they are way too busy.
 If you get any of their basket dumplings (小籠包), they will generally look like this. Neatly spread out on top of a cheese cloth in a little bamboo basket (thus the name). The only difference between various dumplings is their filling. Generally they all have the same thin, Q, and chewy skin. Most of these are also sort of soupy in the middle so be careful when consuming because you might burn your tongue and that will ruin your dining experience when you scalded all your taste buds off.
 This is the truffle basket dumpling. The aroma and oily unique flavor of the truffle permeates this dumpling. It costs 90 NT each and I think it is worth it to try one. The truffle slightly overpowers the pork and so if you like the way truffles taste then you would enjoy this little treat. I was dubious of whether they used actual truffles or that they just used truffle oil, but they indeed had minced truffle like objects int he pork and a slice of truffle in each dumpling. This is an interesting twist on the dumpling, because normally it is just a meaty porky type of soup, but the soup inside this dumpling was enhanced by the addition of truffles.
 However, I still like the original more affordable basket dumplings just made with its filling of pork and various seasoning. I douse these in the ginger vinegar soy sauce and down them. The original filling has an pork oily soup and when combined with the soft skin, the sweetness of the filling combined with the texture of the skin makes a great chewing experience.
 Their second popular item to get are these shrimp dumplings. Their skin really sets them apart from other restaurants as it is thin yet not brittle. They hold all the flavor inside and the combination of the elasticity mixed with the shrimp filling is divine. This is the thinest and strongest dumpling skin I have had yet. I will need to try Shanghai Soup Dumpling 上海湯包 to get a wider variety of dumplings. But for now, this has to be the top of the list of soup dumplings.
 As you can see the shrimp is about half of the dumping while the pork consists of the other half to give it more substance. The flavor of the shrimp dominates the dumpling if you eat it as a whole though. The pork filling kinda adds the juice and oils which the shrimp adds its essence to. I am really biased toward shrimp dumplings so its not hard to please me with this or any variation of wrapped shrimp. I can say that their skin and soup filling is exceptional though.
 I also gave their red oil fry hand 紅油炒手 a try. (Forgive me for making up my own names for things) . Their rendition of these little dumplings mixed in a spicy sauce was just ok. Their spicy sauce was not that spicy or aromatic, but their dumplings are prepared a lot better than regular, cheaper places. They had a generous filling to skin ratio and their fillings were seasoned well. Some places wrap a tiny portion of unseasoned meat in a robe of dumpling skin and you end up feeling like ur just eating spicy dumpling skin (especially in America). If I wanted flat noodles, I would've gone elsewhere. They have a robust dumpling in their own spicy sauce. Not the best spicy sauce, but it does the trick. Their world-class dumplings are undisputably delicious.
 All these soup dumpling eating can make a man thirsty. Sure you can wash it all down with tea, but ordering a bowl of hot soup is a good way to lubricate your throat as well. I tried out their sour and spicy soup which was neither too sour not too spicy. I think I needed to end up adding more vinegar, soy sauce, and white pepper powder to strengthen the soup. Without adding more condiments the soup tastes rather bland. It is too bad because I really liked the way the items in the soup were presented in shredded form. The pork slices, the duck blood, and the tofu were all in the same shredded shape. This helped make each spoonful seem to consist of an even amount of drinkable ingredients. I would still order it again and rehash it to suit my heavy tastes, but it was just too bad that they could not bring a version that was flavored well enough by itself. It is hard to judge because maybe the local tastes aren't that heavy, and that this is considered just right. But its nothing a dash of white pepper powder can't solve.

For the desert I got their thousand-layered cake. It was kind of like eating a sweet layered bao zi(包子). I'd probably not get this again. Its fluffy and semisweet and tastes like a layered bao zhi. I'm glad it was only 35 NT. I dont think I have particulary loved the desserts here. I have tried the eight treasure rice and the other thousand layered cake with more ingredients inside. They were just ok to munch on and pair with the tea after the meal. Nothing to get too excited about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. I don't think I would order the truffle dumplings again, because I might as well just drink truffle oil if I really wanted to just have that taste. I am not that big of a fan of truffles. However their classic basket dumplings and their shrimp dumplings are definitely worth a try. Also, instead of getting sweet and sour soup, I would recommend trying the chicken soup or the beef soup instead. They are more clear, but the broth is very soothing and pairs well with the drier dumplings. Definitely listen to what everybody is recommending and just give Din Tai Fung a try.

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