Din Tai Fung (Xinyi)
No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Daan District
Dining date: 2/10/14
Din Tai Fung (Zhongxiao)
No. 218, Section 4, Zhōngxiào East Road, Daan District
Dining date: 2/6/14
A visit to Din Tai Fung was an absolute must for me while in Taiwan. In fact, I think it’s on a lot of tourist itineraries as the restaurant has a devoted following from all around the world. I was first introduced to Din Tai Fung’s xiaolongbao (and its oft-overlooked rest of the menu) when I moved to Los Angeles and have thoroughly enjoyed them ever since.
Din Tai Fung, which actually started as a shop selling cooking oil, has a number of locations in Taipei. I was able to try two of them – one near where we were staying in the Zhongxiao Dunhua area and the original location. The original location was crowded with tourists (the vast majority from throughout Asia), all eagerly waiting to dine where it all started. We arrived just after opening on a Monday morning to find a handful of people waiting. It was perfect timing as crowds came soon thereafter; by the time we left the restaurant, dozens waited outside for a seat.
The menu at both locations was significantly more robust than what I had seen in Los Angeles. All of the usual suspects were there – some small plates, soups, noodles, soup dumpling xiaolongbao, and both sweet and savory baos; however, Taipei locations seemed to have more options in each category. Most notably, there were a number of xiaolongbao options I had never seen before. Between our two meals, we dined on some old favorites and some new ones.
Seaweed and Bean Curd in Vinegar Dressing (House Special Appetizer)
Crisp and chewy textures highlighted this bright appetizer, a house special. The dressing had a spicy kick to it, complementing the earthy sesame oil.
Shrimp & Pork Wonton Soup
Exceedingly simple, the large wontons were pretty tasty. The clean chicken flavor in the broth was a difference-maker.
Braised Beef Soup
Very tender chunks of beef were bathed in a slightly spicy soup with a lot of flavor and nice depth.
House Beef Noodle Soup (Steamed)
This soup was different from last one in that the broth had a simpler, cleaner flavor similar to the chicken one (although this was still beef-based). The beef was very tender and the noodles were cooked perfectly, leaving just a bit of bite left in them.
Juicy Pork Dumplings (Xiaolongbao)
Obviously, xiaolongbao would be a featured item in each visit. The dumplings were delicious, served piping hot with the thinnest of skins (that somehow never seemed to break). I wouldn’t say these were far-and-away better than my recollection of the Los Angeles locations, but the skin did seem superior here. They maintained a soft and delicate texture, while staying much stronger than many thicker-skinned XLBs I’ve had. Perfectly executed every single time.
Black Truffle Pork Xiaolongbao
I had to have these in both visits. I’d heard a lot about them since they arrived in LA via the Glendale location last year, but this was my first time having them. These had all of the characteristics of the pork xiaolongbao, except the addition of what looked to be both grated and sliced black truffles. The aroma and flavor of the truffles really came through in these most luxurious of bites. So good.
This would be my first time having chicken xialongbao too. These were pretty tasty too, with the chicken having a bit more of a subtle flavor than the pork ones, but the chicken flavor was unmistakable.
Crab Roe & Pork Xiaolongbao
Our last set of xiaolongbao was this crab roe & pork combination. The crab roe flavor was strong and really stood up to the pork; these were the richest of the juicy dumplings we tried.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Din Tai Fung in Taipei and consider them a culinary highlight of the trip. Sure, the restaurant is relatively expensive for Taipei standards for such simple food, but the execution was spot on with everything we tried. Service was surprisingly strong, too. The black truffle xiaolongbao was definitely memorable, and I was happy to get to try some of the other varieties like chicken and the crab roe & pork, which can’t be found in California. Some may regard Din Tai Fung as a sort of “tourist trap” now, but I’m more than happy to fall into this one over and over.