Din Tai Fung – Michelin Stars for the Masses

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These are the heroes that make dining at Din Tai fung one of the "must do" experiences in Taiwan

These are the heroes that make dining at Din Tai fung one of the “must do” experiences in Taiwan

Probably the most known Taiwanese restaurant abroad, Din Tai Fung has opened its Taichung branch in Top City Department Store at the end of 2011.

The branch quickly establish as one of the most successful, island wide.

What is Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is, mainly, a dumpling restaurant.

The first restaurant was opened in Taipei, as a side business of a declining cooking oil store, by Bingyi Yang, in 1985.

The entrance of Taichung Din Tai Fung

The entrance of Taichung Din Tai Fung

Already in 1993, the New York Times ranked Din Tai Fung among the top 10 gourmet restaurant in the world.

Branches were opened, in Taipei, Taiwan and abroad. From 2010, the Hong Kong restaurant has been awarded with one star from the Michelin Guide.

Dining in Din Tai Fung

Above you can see a Youtube video about the original Din Tai Fung restaurant in Taipei. The experience in the Taichung one is not much different, beside being more comfortable and roomy.

If you arrive to Taichung Din Tai Fung on the weekends or during lunch and dinner times, you will have probably to queue, normally for 20 or 30 minutes.
In that case, you will be given a number and an expected waiting time by the english- speaking staff.

When your number will be called, one of the neat and young waitresses will escort you to the table. She will serve you a carefully balanced jasmine tea (a very good match with the food) and she will collect your order. Din Tai Fung has an english menu with pictures.

Din Tai Fung signature dish is called xialongbao. It is a Shanghai delicacy, steamed dumpling filled with pork and jelly. When cooked, the jelly becomes a delicious soup that fills the dumpling.

Din Tai Fung is very different from the typical Michelin star restaurant in Europe. As you can see from the video the decor is minimal, even if new restaurants, as the one in Taichung, are definitively more cozy and spacious than the original one in Xinyi Road in Taipei.

The menu consists in fairly simple dishes, mostly from Northern and Central China, such as the Xiaolongbao, Guotie (Potstickers), Jiaozi (Steamed Dumplings) or even Fried Rice. There are also some typical Taiwanese dishes, such as Beef Noodles and Sesame Noodles.

Also, the bills is convenient. You can easily spend only 600-800 NTD for two, if you don’t order drinks.

Cooks preparing xiaolongbao under your eyes

Cooks preparing xiaolongbao under your eyes

What makes Din Tai Fung so special

I have to confess that the first time I have eaten in Din Tai Fung, in Taipei, I was a little bit disappointed. Was this noisy eatery a famous restaurant? For sure, the dumplings were good but …

Then, when Din Tai Fung opened in Taichung, and I was more used to Chinese cuisine and Chinese ways of eating, I started to understand why it is so popular.

First, because of the freshness and the quality of the ingredients. This is a must in Taiwan. Din Tai Fung brings it to almost perfection. Obviously there is a great control on the supply chain.

Some of the starters: Stewed Bean Curd on the left, Shanghai Style Soy Sprouts on the right

Some of the starters: Stewed Bean Curd on the left, Shanghai Style Soy Sprouts on the right

This brings to the second point, consistency. You can feel a great attention to details. Every preparation has been tweaked and codified, from the complimentary jasmine tea, to the exact weight of the xiaolongbao skin, how many times is hand folded (eighteen times!) and so on.

Xiaolongbao and the different kinds of dumplings taste exactly “right” for texture and flavor.

More, you can be sure that, at least in Taiwan, you can eat exactly the same dumplings every day and in every Din Tai Fung restaurant (some suggest that the original shop in Taipei is still the best, we think this is just an urban mith )

The Spirit of Taiwan

Din Tai Fung is able to provide great cuisine, based on relatively simple dishes, at affordable prices. How they manage to do that?

A successful Din Tai Fung restaurant, as the Taichung one, is able to sell each table, on average, up to 18 times, in a good day. At the end of the day, that makes quite a difference in the restaurant profits.

For doing this, besides a constant flow of customers, you need an “army style” organization. Din Tai Fung have this, but in a typical Taiwanese smiling and efficient way.

All the staff workers have been carefully selected and trained. They work very hard, but their salary is quite higher than the industry average in Taiwan. The way this considerate and courteous staff will treat you is really a great part of the pleasure in dining in a Taiwanese Din Tai Fung.

Vegetarian Mushroom Steamed Dumplings are my favorite

Vegetarian Mushroom Steamed Dumplings are my favorite

Din Tai Fung is no place for long chatting. You will be served quickly. Once finished your meal, even if the courteous staff will not make any pressure, but will constantly refill your cup of tea, you will want to leave quickly as well.

What to Eat in Din Tai Fung

Don’t forget the starters (called “xiao chi“, little eats)! They are very good.

In the season, Din Tai Fung also offers the best bamboo shots.

Besides the xiaolongbao, Din Tai Fung offers several different kinds of dumpling, among them we like very much the Steamed Vegetarian Mushroom Dumplings and the Spicy Vegetable and Pork Wontons.

Fragrant Hot Sour Soup

Fragrant Hot Sour Soup

Among the most popular dishes, Din Tai Fung website also lists Beef Noodles, the classic fragrant Chicken Soup and Fried Rice. The Hot and Sour Soup is also perfect.

What else say? When we are in Din Tai Fung we feel as Audrey Hepburn at Tiffany’s. Nothing bad could happen to you there.

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