Restaurant: Din Tai Fung
Cuisine: Chinese/Shanghainese/Dim Sum
Last visited: April 30, 2011
Location: Global locations – Seattle, WA (Bellevue)
Address: 700 Bellevue Way NE Ste 280
Price Range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- World famous restaurant
- 1 Michelin Star restaurant
- Locations in Asia, US, Australia
- Famous for “juicy pork dumplings”
- Started in Taiwan
- Very long lines/busy
- Tourist attraction
- Shanghainese cuisine
- Made upon order
- Fresh/home made
- Modern atmosphere
- Extensive menu, but with limited choices
- Vegetarian options
- Bubble tea available
**Recommendations: Go to Vancouver, BC… if not, the Seaweed and Bean Curd in Vinegar Dressing and Shrimp and Pork Wonton with Spicy Sauce are great. I guess you have to try the Juicy Pork Dumplings, but I found them okay compared to others I’ve had.
A 1 Michelin Star restaurant (but not for this location), named “Top 10 wonders of Taiwan” by Reader’s Digest, “One of the top 10 gourmet restaurants in the world” by The New York Times (1993), and ranked by New York Leisure Magazine as “the must-visited tourist destination” – This is the world famous Din Tai Fung. Finally it has arrived and it’s in Bellevue!
At first glance everything may look authentic. Chinese name, Chinese characters, deeply rooted Chinese history, and perhaps the most famous restaurant to introduce and establish Shanghainese cuisine to the popular mass market.
The line up for Din Tai Fung is out the door and it’s not shocking if the wait is over 2 hours as it was when it first opened. I was lucky to only wait about 30 minutes. People travel near and far just to visit Din Tai Fung.
The restaurant welcomes you by featuring a large display window of 20+ staff making these delectable Shanghainese “juicy pork dumplings” we have all grown to know and love by its proper name of xiao long bao.
So far so good as you can witness the xiao long bao, siu mai, and wontons all being hand rolled, stuffed and wrapped. All set, ready to go and made upon order. It sure seems authentic enough, but take a closer look and you’ll realize that there’s nothing quite “authentic” or “Shanghainese” about Din Tai Fung…
If this is America’s idea of authentic and traditional Shanghainese cuisine, then they need to come to Canada! Okay well maybe just to Vancouver, BC! It’s a closer and cheaper trip than to Shanghai and it’s beautiful up here! I have to admit, Vancouverites are extremely spoiled by high quality and traditional Shanghainese cuisine, let alone just Asian cuisine in general.
There’s no other way to say this, but if Cactus Club invented a Shanghainese restaurant it would be Din Tai Fung. Just like Cactus Club I found the food good, atmosphere trendy, and dishes overpriced. Actually the menu is quite limited to a whole bunch of “mix and match items” and it only touches upon the popular Shanghainese dishes. The menu looks extensive, but it really boils down to five things with slight variations of switching the protein or the noodle.
It’s quite overrated if you compare it to lots of other places you can find in Vancouver, BC. I don’t want to say Vancouver is the “best” and “most authentic” for Shanghainese, but it sure gives you a better idea of excellent Shanghainese food. Any of the following: Suhang Restaurant, Beijing Cuisine, Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen, Shanghai River, Shanghai House, Spicy Szechuan Seafood Restaurant, Northern Delicacy, Dinasty Chinese Restaurant would all be better than Din Tai Fung for almost all items. However in the case that there are no other restaurants of this quality and style in Seattle, then yes, Din Tai Fung might be considered a “local favourite” and “must try”.
I don’t have a problem with who is making or serving the food, and I’m all for recyclable material, pretty boxes and I guess I do enjoy posh atmospheres, but I can’t help to poke at Din Tai Fung a bit. I really don’t want to be too harsh because the food is decent, made in house, and still somewhat traditional with a powerful name and history to back it up. But with all its credentials, I wasn’t that impressed considering I’ve had easily better in Vancouver. Just know that Din Tai Fung is really just a taste of what Shanghainese cuisine is and only an introduction to what it has to offer. I hear Vancouver calling your name (if not already from there/here).
On the table:
- Oh yes! I forgot about the tea. The tea can be added to the list of contributing factors that suggests “modern” Shanghainese food.
- The tea is from Mighty Leaf. Great teas, but at an authentic 1 Michelin Star Shanghainese/Chinese restaurant… someone please… insert your comments below.
- I was hoping for some imported quality Jasmine tea… and the restaurant also serves bubble tea.
- I’m not sure if this was an authentic Shanghainese dish I haven’t tried before, or if they were going for the authentic Shanghainese appetizer – Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables also known as “Malantou” by its traditional name.
- Whatever it was, it seemed quite modern but I did really like it! So for me it didn’t really matter if it was authentic, but it just wasn’t “Malantou” if that’s what it was supposed to be.
- It was a cold appetizer salad with strands of firm bean curd, clear mung bean noodles, fresh seaweed, and bean sprouts.
- It had great texture and flavour as it was all marinated and tossed in sesame oil, a malted vinegar and soy dressing with a hint of chili oil.
- It was crunchy, slippery, refreshing, tangy, savoury and had a nice mild spicy heat to follow. Delicious!
- 10 pieces $9.50
- I’d recommend these because it’s what they are famous for. But were they good? Yes, if you’ve never tried Juicy Pork Dumplings before, but otherwise there is easily better.
- They were a bit smaller than I’m used to and slightly more expensive without the flavour to back it up. I just found them overrated.
- There really wasn’t much soup, which is the point. The soup or “juice” wasn’t as creamy or rich as I’m used to either.
- The pork flavour was good, but it wasn’t as melt in your mouth tender and not as fatty so therefore there wasn’t going to be much soup.
- The skins were great though and paper thin with still a nice chew.
- For comparisons sake see Juicy Pork Dumplings here at Suhang, here at Beijing Cuisine, or here at one of Vancouver’s most beloved places for them Shanghai River.
- Tan Tan noodles! Or Dan Dan noodles! Whatever you want to call them, it’s the Shanghainese/Szechuan/Beijing noodle and soup bowl staple.
- The noodles were long and soft, but I actually question if they’re handmade. Part of me doubts they are because they don’t advertise or show it.
- There’s not as much soup and I’m used to this being served with julienne cucumbers and minced pork, but this was a vegetarian version.
- It was a creamy, rich, nutty, medium spicy sesame soup with chili oil and it was quite thick with a bit of a granular texture from the ground sesame seeds.
- It was topped with toasted ground peanuts and sesame seeds for added flavour and texture.
- The whole sesame sauce thing is actually an American touch to traditional “tan tan noodles”, but I’ve grown accustomed to it and I like it.
- This was good, and not bland, but compared to the Tan Tan Noodles at Shanghai River – see here, or Shanghai House – see here, or even Japanese restaurant Ramen Santouka – see here, it would be considered on the mild side.
- Okay, I have to give it up to them for this dish! Bravo! If I was to come back, it would be for this rather than their famous juicy pork dumplings.
- It’s more of a Cantonese Chinese dish with Shanghainese flavours, but they sure mastered it well and it was excellent!
- I can get solid wontons in Vancouver, but these ones rival the ones I’ve had.
- There were 8 handmade wontons and I found it a heck of a good deal since it did have the flavours and quality.
- It was very aromatic in the initial notes and there was a little bit of spicy sauce that was almost like a soup to nicely coat them all.
- The slippery wonton skins were al dente and had a nice chew to them almost like pasta skins. The skins were a bit thicker and seemed more Shanghainese than Cantonese in style so that didn’t bother me and I actually liked it since the sauce was more bold.
- Each wonton was filled with fresh crunchy pieces of juicy prawn and there was more prawn than pork.
- The sauce had a delicious roasted nutty chili aroma and spice, yet it was sweet in the beginning with a heat lingering afterward.
- The dish had a little bit of sweet pickled Chinese cabbage to give the sauce some depth and tang and overall the flavours were strong and well rounded.
- 10 pieces $6.50 (You can order half of each flavour)
- Considering I don’t like many Chinese desserts and especially red bean, I actually could tolerate these and somewhat saw there appeal!
- For my personal tastes it would be 2/6, but I would give it a solid 4/6 if I liked these desserts. It was very well executed.
- Both flavours were actually very good, but it just depends on what you like. It’s like chocolate versus vanilla.
- They were steamed and piping hot dumplings and the skins were paper thin, but a bit dry.
- You pop these mini pockets in your mouth and it’s a rich, creamy, puree of a 2:1 ratio of red bean or taro root filling to dumpling skin.
- It just oozes out of the wrapper like a thick paste.
- It’s quite chewy from the skin and paste combination, but the puree fillings were very nicely done and moist.
- The taro root is a bit starchier and drier and the red bean had more flavour, yet both were nicely sweetened.