Sunday, January 16, 2011

The legend that is Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐传奇

Something wonderful happened in Seattle, judging from the hour line up, it is not a secret any more.
A new dumpling house in upscale Lincoln square, but Din Tai Fung is so much more. Its story is legendary, and its food delicious. Founded in Taiwan in the 70s by Bingyi Yang, a former army supplies officer. Yang was a kind man who fled the civil war in mainland China and settled in a civilian life. Yang and his wife initially sold steamed dumplings as a side business, in order to feed their five children. But the dumplings were so good, words got around, many celebrities became fans, and a legend was born.

Don't let the occasional crowd gathering at the door scare you. The friendly hostess will let you know approximate wait time, and provide some suggestions. You can also watch the magic of dumpling making, through glass window at the entrance, another Din Tai Fung trademark.

Once seated, you will likely find the menu to be rather simple. Steamed pork dumplings is the star here, they are work of art, and require extreme care. You don't want to break the skin and lose the delicious soup inside. The traditional way to consume them is by dipping in ginger vinegar. I like the crab variety even better, you should try both.

Surprisingly, I found several other dishes just as good, if not better, than the dumplings. The chicken soup, the real authentic kind, every drop was heavenly. I particularly like the noodle, great texture, not over cooked at all.  And who would think too much of fried port chop? It sure didn't look impressive, but was easily the best I've ever tasted. On subsequent trip I tried a few other dishes, beef and tofu soup are more on the average side, desserts are usually pretty good. I've read some not so great reviews on Yelp, maybe it had to do with the ordering? I'll also be reasonable with expectations. for the price, location, I have very little to complain about.

The waitresses are very well trained, and on one occasion, provided exceptional service. She always came back at the right time. Since I ordered a special dessert, red bean steamed rice cake, a dish that gets dry and inedible if sitting out for too long. She had the kitchen timed so that it came straight to our table, and the result was moist and delicious.

The story of Din Tai Fung is one with quality and care that is put into simple food.

The Seattle location is only its second in the US, the other one is in LA. Judging from its popularity, you really can't go wrong with it. The wait can be painful, but nearby Bellevue Square provides a convenient distraction. And when you finally get to taste the legend, it will be all worth it.

Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon

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