If you are a bit familiar with London’s food scene, or the global one, you will have heard of Din Tai Fung. If you haven’t, let me bring you up to speed!
Originally from Taiwan, Din Tai Fung is specialised in baos and buns. Their signature dish is the xiaolongbao, or soup bao, which contains a broth and meat. Din Tai Fung does steamed dumplings so well that its Hong Kong branch was the first street food place to obtain a Michelin star!
So imagine our excitement when it landed in London late last year!
As all good places in London which do not take reservations, one has to exercise patience when trying to get a table. So instead of rushing there when it opened, we waited until the novelty effect had cooled down and on a Saturday evening we added our name to the waiting list just after 6pm and were sitting down just an hour later. Not too bad by London standard.
Once inside, Din Tai Fung is like many central London Asian restaurants, big, shiny but a bit soulless. The only noticeable feature is the massive window giving you a peak into the kitchen, or more accurately into the dumplings production lines. Din Tai Fung is serving food to many and the romantic aspect of a chef’s brigade structure was abandoned in favour of an efficient factory-like process.
Like in most baos places, you are handed an ordering slip with the menu to mark down what you would like to eat and in which quantities.
We obliged while our drinks were being served, a green tea for me a bubble one for him. Both were perfectly fine but not noticeably better than anywhere else. Luckily we weren’t there for the drinks!
Arrived our first pick, the Oriental Salad. One of those dishes you are not exactly sure what is in them but you don’t really care because it is delicious. The salad was one of the highlights of the meal for us – tasty, refreshing and, as far as salad goes, very satisfying!
We followed with a conventional order of pork and vegetables steamed buns which were fluffy and flavoursome.
The prawn and pork wontons were nice as well with a tasty dressing paired with them.
Then came THE pork xiao long baos! They were good although definitely needed the help of a kick of vinegar and ginger. They were also a bit messy to eat and I recommend watching this video to make sure you get the full experience. Good baos? Yes. The best ones I have ever had? Maybe not.
People who have had the chance to visit both the London and Hong Kong branches have told us that the Hong Kong ones are Michelin-worthy.
The mushroom and edamame noodles were another discovery and again a very pleasant one! The serving was also more than enough to share between two.
Our last savoury dish was the crispy prawn pancake. It was a bit unnecessary at that point as we were already full, but it was tasty, albeit a bit too greasy for my liking.
For dessert, we picked the red bean and chocolate dumplings. They were good but very indulgent and after so much food I think I would have preferred a simpler red bean one sans-chocolate.
Dining at Din Tai Fung was a pleasant experience and it was nice to finally taste what all the fuss was about. What I would say is that Din Tai Fung is about creating and tweaking the perfect menu for you. Finding the right amount of dishes, condiments and flavours tailored to your tastes is what will make it a place you go back to over and over again.