Friday, December 12, 2008

Din Tai Fung (Taiwanese Dumpling Restaurant)

Address: Shop 11, 04 Level 1
World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 9264 6010
Fax: 9264 6013

When I asked one of my well-travelled friends where the best dumplings were, he replied with "Din Tai Fung". It's a chain, with restuarants all around the world (Taiwan, Japan, China, Indonesia, Singapore, USA, Korea, Malaysia) and now Australia.

I've never really had Siu Loong Bau before - the first time I was acquainted with the term was while watching old-school Shaw Brothers Kung Fu movies... the ones where the protagonist (usually a mysterious Kung Fu master or warrior) is new to town, and enters the local teahouse to enjoy light dimsims and enquire about the latest word-about-town... they're always eating dumplings!

Anyway, Siu Loong Bau (aka Pork Dumplings, listed as 1. on the menu for the noobs out there) is a dumpling - the unique feature being that it has its own soup inside the pastry. See how in the photo below, the dumplings look denser at the bottom? You can see the soup! Word of warning: don't try to eat the whole thing in your mouth at once, especially shortly after it is delivered - you can burn yourself with the soup!

Also tried this Silken tofu with century egg and pork floss - this is a cold dish, nothing spectacular. Actually I probably wouldn't recommend it.

This was a Braised beef soup with spinach - a mildly spicy soup. Beef was very, very tender...

Dan Dan noodle - this is a WOW dish. Traditional Taiwanese noodle, with a sesame-cream type sauce. VERY unique flavour. Has sprinkles of white sesame throughout the noodle. I could go on eating this forever!

This was a cold, spicy (the sauce is actually spicy, so if you don't take chilli watch out) dumpling dish, filled with finely chopped spinach/shallot type pork mince mixture.

Below: A vegetable appetiser dish consisting of thinly sliced tofu, seaweed, soya bean sprouts in a sesame-oil dressing. Light and refreshing.

Below: Cucumber drizzled with sesame oil, sprinkled with garlic. This is just a light appetiser to tease the stomach before the dumplings and mains come out. Nothing flash, just simple.

Below: Drunken Chicken - the pros of this dish is that it is all sliced and ready to eat. The cons of this dish is that is slighty on the the medicinal/bitter-tasting end so unless that's what you're into, its not worth the $13-or so. Don't be fooled by the picture, the dish is actually about 15cm long and 10cm wide (approx).

The servings were not overly big or small, and these 5 dishes were just right for 2 people. The standout dishes were definitely the steamed pork dumplings (first photo) and the Dan Dan noodle. The dumplings are everything they are hyped up to be!

The surroundings were neat, clean, innovative with a mix of Asian influence but Western-style seated dining. Service was professional, all the staff acknowledged you, and all our food come out within 15 minutes of being seated and after ordering. The restuarant opened at 5:30pm for dinner, and even by 6pm when we got there - it was packed full and had to wait for a table. So if you're planning a nice dinner out, book ahead to avoid embarrassment!

OH I forgot about dessert! Tried the green tea icecream - which was served with pieces of red bean and a leaf of mint. The bitterness of the red wine that I drank killed my tastebuds by that stage, but what I wouldn't give to go back there to try the other desserts (and dishes!)

Thumbs up for this one, and remember - everything goes better with vinegar! (Pour the vinegar in the small dish with shreds of ginger in it for those that look at chopsticks and freak out).


Below: Steamed crab roe/meat & pork dumpling. A highly coveted "limited edition" dumpling (i.e. they sell out). Must be eaten hot, otherwise filling will harden - I felt that the filling was still a bit frozen and had much of the life & flavour sucked out of it, so I prefer the original pork version.

Din Tai Fung also do gourmet drinks:

Above: Watermelon juice beautifully displayed with this ball you shouldn't attempt to eat.

Above: Italian soda with Strawberry - a magical fairytale of soda water with a strawberry syrup at the base - stir, sip and feel like a kid again.

Below: Lychee & Mint drink - I think I've found a substitute for love in this drink. PERFECT fusion of lychee & mint - cool and refreshing as that is the fruit of lychee, with the slightly bitter (but nice) hit of spearmint leaves blended with ice. Bliss.