When you waltz up to Din Tai Fung, the first thing you may see is the chef with a dumpling for a head—he’s kind of hard to miss. The cheerful greeting from the Taiwanese dumpling house mascot puts you in an upbeat frame of mind, and when you pause at the glassed-in display kitchen where dumplings of all sorts are being created by hand, that happy feeling is sure to continue until you are seated at your table. On your way, you’ll pass through a huge dining room with soaring windows that showcase a green vista, lots of wood throughout and an enormous water feature right in the center of the restaurant.
Drinks here range from a seemingly mild pear and lychee martini to the stronger DTF Old-Fashioned, with Japanese whiskey and Taiwanese oolong tea. For a nice twist, the spiced boba combines Absolut vanilla, Kahlua, black tea, cream, cinnamon and boba, perfect for these summer temps. Ask your server to check on the latest additions to this menu as it does change seasonally.
Choose appetizers like the wood ear mushrooms or baby back ribs, then follow up with the main event. Ordering here is on a checklist-style system, where you choose the dumplings and buns you want to share (or hoard for yourself; it’s all good). Good choices are the shrimp and kurobuta pork shao mai; Jidori chicken; and vegan dumplings, the latter stuffed with shitake and wood ear mushrooms, glass noodles and bean curd—but it’s the color that’s truly amazing. Spinach juice lends the wrappers a verdant hue. The plump buns come in several options, like kurobuta pork, Jidori chicken and oyster mushroom buns, and a vegan version stuffed with the same mix you’ll find in the dumplings. Get wontons and xiao long bao varieties, too. It seems like the choices are endless. You’ll mix dipping sauces to your personal preference. And once the baskets of dumplings start issuing from the kitchen, you may be hard-pressed to keep up with the flow. Be prepared!
If you’d prefer, choose soups, noodles or entrées instead of dumplings only. The vegan wonton soup is light and delicate in kombu broth. A little sesame drizzle is perfect here. The hot sour pork soup is packed with tons of ingredients. There are also noodles with different types of toppings, from pickled mustard greens and shredded kurobata pork to diced beef and Szechuan peppers. Wok specialties include shrimp fried rice, fried rice with a pork chop; veggie and mushroom fried rice; noodle dishes; and rice cakes.
It may seem impossible to consider ordering dessert (where will you find the room?), but you won’t be sorry. The chocolate and mochi xiao long bao is pretty amazing, with a layer of mochi wrapped around chocolate. The red bean bun pulls in a completely different flavor, but it’s also worth the order. And the lovely sesame paste bun will have you considering a second order. Truly.
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