Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)
Din Tai Fung is an award-winning chain Shanghainese restaurant specializing in xiao long bao (小籠包) which are really small steamed, pork-filled dumplings. It originated in Taiwan but now has chains in many parts of southeastern Asia (e.g. China, Singapore) and Australia. In North America, they have a couple locations in the States, including one in Seattle. Definitely a bit surprised that Richmond was not on that list given the relatively high percentage of Chinese culture. However, if they do try to attack the Richmond market, they’d encounter quite a lot of stiff competition.
Most Din Tai Fung are busy and this is no exception. Expect to wait an hour for a table but you can shop at Bellevue Mall or watch some of the chefs fold the different types of dumplings (through a glass at the front of the restaurant) while you wait. However, compared to the other Din Tai Fung we have experienced in Asia, this one is definitely westernized and it is definitely understandable why this is done. There’s a bar, which is definitely something you would not expect from a Chinese restaurant. The food variety remains good but does lack a little in authenticity and even some basic staples such as sticky rice wraps and soya milk was not on the menu (surprisingly, bubble tea was but it did not look very good). Despite this, it is still a very popular location.
The Guy Score:
Spendable Time: Very busy no matter when – 1.5 hour tops
Price Range: $10-$15 per person
Comments: I was expecting more from Din Tai Fung. Food wise, it was just average and slightly disappointing when compared to the other Din Tai Fung in Asia. It was just lacking in authenticity and felt like something imported and then commercialized. Ambiance wise, it has a very western feel with leather couches and modern chairs (but the tiles on the floor and the table choices were more Asian influenced). I do give them the menu – there was Chinese on there with the expected piece of paper where you check off what you want (they even give it to you before you come in to increase table turnover time). Service was average, but they were haste and friendly. Overall, this was not a strong performance for a chain that carried so much promise and with much higher quality in their other locations around the globe. It is understandable though.
What we had (prices could be slightly off….):
Xiao Long Bao (小籠包) – $9.50/10
Guy Food Score: 7.5/10
Recommended to Order: It is their claim to fame…
Guy Comments: Not bad. The skin was quite thin even at the tip and well formed. The meat was flavourful but the amount of juice in the dumpling itself, which I believe is the most important factor, was only average. There is some, but there isn’t that burst in your mouth amount that a really good one has. It was somewhat hot, but definitely cooled off a bit…I suspect that because they get so many orders, they just keep steaming them and give them out whenever someone orders them and hence, they were not steamed to order. A tad disappointing – not as good as others I have had.
Dan Dan Noodles (Noodles with Spicy Sesame Sauce) – $7.50
Sorry for the blurriness
Guy Food Score: 7/10
Recommended to Order: Average
Guy Comments: The noodles were fine with a nice presentation – definitely something you won’t see unless you are in a more upscale Chinese restaurant ordinarily. A bit overdone though I’d say, lost a bit of the chewiness you expect and want from a Chinese noodle and if done the authentic way. The sauce was savoury and flavourful and not too overly spicy if you request it that way. Nice sesame, peanut flavour and consistency on the sauce and I like the added crunch at the top. It wasn’t out of this world good and I think many places in Vancouver do it just as good and if not better than this. For one thing, this was just kinda warm. I know some places do it hot and others enjoy it cold – but this was just neither. Mix before you enjoy!
Shrimp and Pork Pot Stickers – $6.50/5
Guy Food Score: 8/10
Recommended to Order: Best of the bunch
Guy Comments: I was reluctant to order it but surprisingly, it was the best. Very interesting presentation with the crispy spring-roll skin. The dumpling itself was surprisingly juicy (not super juicy as in the xiao long bao), especially for something that was panfried. It still has that nice crisp pan-fried texture to the bottom of the dumpling. I like the addition of shrimp to the pork inside the dumpling as well and was delicious! The sauce was a nice addition – Chinese hot sauce with dumpling sauce (reminded me of a thicker version of gyoza sauce). I did wish it was a bit fuller in terms of the amount of filling, especially considering the meaning of fullness behind the traditional Chinese meaning of this dish. The dumpling was also a bit smaller than I expected as well – reminded me of the size of a Japanese gyoza than a Chinese panfried potsticker. Overall, it was very good.
Din Tai Fung Information:
700 Bellevue Way NE (Store #280 of Bellevue Mall)