Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Din Tai Fung - World Square

I got a message from my friend a while back saying Din Tai Fung is open and World Square, followed by a 15min conversation as to how much she loved the food when she was in Taiwan. My brother in law also tried to take me to Din Tai Fung when I was in Singapore, but the line was massive so we went somewhere else instead.

I decided to take my parents out for dinner last night, as its rare that I don't have volleyball on Mondays. I met up with them at World Square after work and quickly grabbed a table at Din Tai Fung. Even on a Monday night, the restaurant quickly filled up by about 6:30pm.

I love the feature wall of bamboo steamers

The thing you notice immediately when you walk in is the huge number of employees. We tried to count how many employees were actually working there, but there were so many we kept losing count. There were about 15 people making dumplings in one kitchen, easily another 10 people cooking in the other kitchen, countless number of waiter/waitresses roaming the floor and more people behind a service counter. We estimated anywhere between 40-60 people working there.

Super power steamers

Browsing the menu, my dad commented how the prices aren't too bad. In fact, he used the word "cheap".

Cold tofu with pork floss and century egg

Tofu, to me, comes in 2 kinds. Firm and rough, but strong soya bean taste. Or soft and silky, but lacking any taste of soya beans. This tofu however, had the best of both worlds. The tofu was firm but silky and tasted strongly of aromatic soya beans. It wouldn't surprise me if they made their own tofu? Anyone know?

This was easily our favourite dish of the night. In fact, my mum made this exact dish for dinner tonight. If only we could get the same type of tofu.

Crab roe dumplings

I've never had this before, so I don't know how it compares to other ones. The most impressive thing about the Din Tai Fung dumplings are the dumpling wrappers. If you look closely at the photos, the dark patches on the dumplings is actually the soup inside. The wrapper is so thin, that you can see the soup, but thick enough for it not to burst. I've been to other restaurants where the wrappers are almost twice the thickness but still burst when you pick them up.

Fried pork chop

I was shocked when this was brought out. For about $9, you expect more than ONE pork chop. It was lightly dusted in 5 spice powder before being fried. The pork chop was quite tender, but it was small and thin enough for just a few mouthfuls.

Xiao Long Bao - Pork Dumplings

These are the traditional steamed pork dumplings you find in all Shanghainese restaurants. They were noticeably smaller than those you get at Shanghai Nights. Again, the super thin translucent dumpling wrappers that show the pocket of soup inside. Whilst the dumpling wrapper was superb and out of this world, I much prefer the filling of Shanghai Nights.

Beef noodle soup

A lovely hearty Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The beef was so tender it practically fell apart, but it was the soup that made this dish.

Ja Jiang Mien

I could not believe the size of this when it came out. It was easily 1/2 the size of what we got at Shanghai Nights. I couldn't tell if I liked this dish or not since there was barely enough to go around, let alone taste the real flavours.

Seeing how small the portions were, I ordered 2 pork and vegetable steamed buns. This took about 15-20mins to arrive as they're steamed fresh to order. The waitress also kindly offered to cut it up for us as we were sharing the 2 buns between 3 people.

Pork and vegetable steamed bun

I don't know about you, I certainly can't see any pork in the filling let alone taste it. In fact, I found this quite bland. I ended up pouring dark vinegar all over the bun.

Taro dumplings

My mum loves taro, so I ordered a serve of the taro dumplings for dessert. These were really nice and a great way to finish the meal. I just wished there was more.

Overall, I found the food to be really expensive for the size of the portions. The total bill for 3 people came to $85 (Tea costs $2 per person). My Dad's jaw dropped when the saw the bill. He quickly retracted the "cheap" word he used earlier. Whilst the individual dishes seem "cheap", because of the size of the servings, you end up ordering twice as much as you normally would. Hence the $85 price tag.

This is a huge difference compared to Shanghai Nights, were we usually spend a maximum of $35 and have leftovers to take home. The servings are significantly smaller than what I am used to from any of the Shanghainese restaurants in Ashfield. I guess they had to shrink the size and up the price to pay for the huge amounts of employees working there.

I must admit, the service was fantastic. Every waitress who walked by our table, had a quick check/glance at our order and chased up anything that hadn't arrived yet. And when our steamed buns took longer than usual to come out, they kept coming back to give us updates as to when they would be ready.

Leaving the restaurant, we stood outside watching them make the dumplings. This is when we noticed that they had two people dedicated to rolling the wrappers, two people dedicated to putting the filling on the wrappers and two people dedicated to wrapping the dumplings. This was just for the Xiao Long Bao. They had another 6-8 people making the other dumplings, dim sims and buns.

Din Tai Fung
Shop 11. 04 Lvl 1
World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St
Sydney 2000

Ph: 9264 6010

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