What can I say about Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) that hasn’t already been said? It has the reputation for making the best xiao long bao (小籠包) anywhere in Asia. Both tourists and locals alike come here to savor these awesome meaty dumplings. You can’t go to Taiwan/Taipei without trekking down to one of the Din Tai Fung branches to take in the fantastic food, attentive service and overall experience. According to my in-depth research (aka Wikipedia) Din Tai Fung is one of the few restaurant chains that has earned a coveted Michelin star. While not as cheap as the one Michelin starred Tim Wo Han in Hong Kong, Din Tai Fung is affordable by western standards.
Our group of four chose to go to the original location on Xinyi Road that’s nearby the Jiéyùndōngmén MRT station (捷運東門站). The restaurant is easy to find via Google Maps. Once you head out from the MRT station just head east and look for the large mass of humanity that is gathered on the street. You really can’t miss it. For an even easier option, hail a taxi and tell them Xinyi Din Tai Fung and you will be on your way.
Pro Tip: Get there early, preferably between 11am to 11:30am for an early lunch. Otherwise, be prepared to wait for a couple of hours. We were lucky in that we came at around 11:15am which allowed us to waltz right in and up the stairs to our seats.
What makes their soup dumplings so badass is the amount of detail and care that each dumpling undergoes. Professional chefs kneed each dumpling by hand with each dumpling having the exact same number of folds. Supposedly, the chefs undergo years of training before they are put on the line. How many years? I can’t actually remember off the top of my head. Just know that the orgasmic mess that you put into your mouth includes years of tears, sweat and hard work (tasty!). It makes me guilty that I’m only paying about $7 – $8USD for it.
I recommend that you try as many of the dishes as possible. But I won’t blame you if you decide to order multiple orders of the original soup dumplings. Some of my other favorites include the beef noodle soup which is surprisingly good considering it is not a “core” dish of Din Tai Fung. There is also a wide array of dim sum and small Taiwanese favorites such as the delicious watercress and tofu dishes that adorn the menu.
One of the most underrated dishes (in my opinion) is the fish dumplings that you see above. The dumplings are a delicious mix of fish, fresh veggies and the same soup base as the pork soup dumplings. A definite must try.
Truffle and pork xiao long bao. You can only get this in Taiwan, it’s actually not offered at the Arcadia (Los Angeles) branch or the Bellevue (Seattle) branch. Taiwan is probably your only opportunity to try it and trust me when I say, it is worth it. Essentially, they put small specks of truffle alongside the pork and the soup base to create a wonderfully fragrant dumpling that is in a league all by itself. While not exactly cheap (450NT for 5 dumplings, approximately $15USD), it’s worth a try to not only savor, but at least, to say you have done it. Remember to Instagram it and show it to your friends.
Most dishes run 240NT ($8USD), not super expensive, but certainly not penny wares. With a group of 4 guys, our bill came out to be 2000NT ($61USD) for a substantial lunch that left us feeling full. As with any restaurant in Taiwan, there is no sales tax and no expectation of a tip. If you do leave a tip, it’s not unusual for the waitress to run after you in order to give you back your money. Overall, the price is not cheap compared to what you can get on the street, but the food quality is in a league of its own.
Din Tai Fung is a must go. Under no circumstance are you to come to Taipei and NOT go to a Din Tai Fung. I recommend checking out this excellent segment that Eddie Huang does on his visit there. Side Note: The wait staff does indeed greet you with an avalanche of ni hao as you walk through the door.
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