Friday, January 18, 2008

Din Tai Fung - Review

Din Tai Fung - Recommended

No. 194 (corner of Yunkang Street), Xinyi Road Sec. 2, Taipei

Phone: (02)23218928

Din Tai Fung is known all over Asia as having some of the best soup dumplings (xiao long bow) on this planet. I've been here before and I was completely blown away the first time. Now that I feel like I've had my fair share of very good to excellent soup dumplings, I wanted to see how it would hold up. Kinda like Babbo pre-Italy and Babbo post-Italy. Din Tai Fung still is a must visit, but a little of the wow factor is slightly diminished. Overall, I give the restaurant an 83/100.

My Menu

1) Crab and Pork Dumplings – Highly Recommended
2) Shrimp and Pork Shumai – Recommended
3) Vegetable Dumpling - Average
4) Snow Pea Tips - Recommended
5) Red Bean Bun - Highly Recommended

Dish Comments
1) Like I've said before the key to a great xiao long bow is tender skin, good broth, and flavorful meat. The thing that amazes me about this dumpling is that there are 20+ folds, which is a perfect vehicle to catch the soy/vinegar mixture...kinda like the fork presses in a nice gnocchi. Also, the skin is so tender, yet incredibly resilient. Most soup dumplings that have tender skin, rip easily...this does not. Great dumpling though I wish the broth was a little warmer.
2) I love the Hong Kong style shumai and this is way different. Like the xiao long bow, there's broth inside of the shumai skin. Quite weird, yet quite good. I was looking for the big powerful pork flavor that I love about the shumai. This is more delicate and still really good.

3) The vegetable dumpling is beautiful to look at (just look at the folds), but the flavors are ok - filled with shitakes, cabbage, carrots, and other stuff. Clean and nice, but I think there are better things on the menu to order.
4) Snow pea tips are a favorite of mine and this is done very well. Tender and still a little crunchy and the flavor is very clean - tasting the nuttiness of the snow pea tips.
5) This like all the other Taiwan desserts are off the chain good. Insanely soft bun filled with a perfect red bean puree...again not too sweet, but sweet enough. I would have ordered two more if I didn't eat 20+ dumplings by my lonesome.

Overall Restaurant Experience (83/100)

  • Food 8.4/10 – The wow factor is slightly diminished, but this is still the number one soup dumpling place in my opinion.
  • Service 7.8/10 – Food came out at a relatively quick pace. You place your order even before you step in the place.
  • Atmosphere 7.0/10 – Ok, so this place is uber famous in Asia, which means it takes forever to get in. We waited 1 hour for lunch at 12pm on a Monday. If you decide to wait, you'll hear numerous dialects...mandarin, cantonese, japanese, korean, and english. Once inside, you're whisked by what looks like a crack lab, but it's really the workers making those perfect dumpling folds. Once inside, it's a relatively small place that doesn't look like anything special.
  • Price 7.5/10 – Cheap for US standards, but pretty pricey for Taiwan standards. Bill came out to $40US, which isn't terrible for two people.

Closing Comments
After the trip to San Francisco and recent visits to Grand Shanghai, we've had our share of very good to great Xiao Long Bow. Din Tai Fung is still number one in my opinion due to the perfect skin and perfect folds. However, I am proud to say that NW Jers represents since Grand Shanghai stood up to a lot of the great places in Taipei. Still, if you're ever in Taipei, this place is a must visit.

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