Xiao long bao
Din Tai Fung - the most talked-about dumpling house in Sydney at the moment. From its beginnings as a side business for an oil shop in Taiwan, Din Tai Fung is now a global phenomenon with dumpling houses across China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the USA, and now Australia.
Dumpling makers hard at work
It's hard not to get excited at first sight of the glass-walled kitchen that juts by the entrance. Like a team of medics dressed in white coats and surgical masks, the pastry chefs are kneading, rolling and pleating dumplings with relentless precision. There are over twenty of them, heads down, nary a smile, their faces a picture of concentration.
We've deliberately arrived early for a Friday lunch, mindful of its reputation for busy queues. We walk straight in a 11.15am but notice the place gets full by 11.40am.
Inside, the dining room is large, modern and, for a dumpling house, surprisingly spacious. Three enormous lanterns dominate the ceiling, swinging from side to side throughout our lunch, a huge installation of mounted bamboo steamers adding a quirky sense of fun.
Tally sheet for each table's orders
A smiling waitress takes our order on a pink docket, pre-printed with all the menu options. Whilst we wait, we acquaint ourselves with the condiments tray and the laminated "Guide to enjoying xiao long bao".
Vinegar, soy sauce and chilli oil
Your helpful guide to enjoying xiao long bao
Sauteed water spinach with garlic $10.80
Our sauteed water spinach arrives first. Piled neatly on a modern square plate, the dark green leaves are soft and tender, slivers of steamed garlic reinforced by the generous scattering of golden fried garlic pebbles on top.
Shrimp and pork wonton soup $8.80
Shrimp and pork wonton soup is simple and warming, six slippery wontons floating lazily in hot broth.
Xiao long bao steamed crab meat and roe with pork dumpling $13.80
But it's the xiao long bao I'm most excited about. The steamed crab meat and roe with pork is a limited offering, usually selling out. The puddle of soup within each dumpling is clearly visible, the delicate skins almost translucent. At Din Tai Fung, each dumpling is alleged to have at least 18 pleats. I don't bother to check - I'm too interested in eating them!
We transfer these precious parcels to our spoons using our chopsticks, then lift them to our mouths with anticipation. One tear of the skin and our mouths are flooded with sweet soup. The taste of crab is only subtle and I'm a little disappointed at the mildness of the soup, more used to the blast of juicy sweetness from my favourite dumplings at Shanghai Night.
Xiao long bao pork dumpling $8.80
The pork xiao long bao have a little more substance to them. Whilst the dumplings are Shanghai Night have more punch to them, we can appreciate the paper-thin skins of the dumpings at Din Tai Fung. Whilst thin, they are surprisingly strong, never breaking during the steamer to spoon transfer.
Shrimp and pork won ton with spicy sauce (5 pieces) $8.80
Shrimp and pork won tons with spicy sauce have a pleasing chilli kick. Doused in a fiery puddle of chilli oil with garlic and green onions, it's a welcome party on the palate.
Blue Italian soda $4.50
The drinks take longer to arrive than the steamed dumplings. The blue Italian soda is just a fancy lemonade but we do appreciate the top third of the straw wrapper left on for hygiene purposes.
Golden red bean bread $5.80
We finish with a serve of golden red bean bread, like a slice of crustless white bread rolled up with red bean paste, dipped in sesame seeds on each end, and deep fried until crisp. It's generous with red bean, if a tad oily.
Damage for 3 people: $61 with 3 teas and 1 drink.
Perfect for high end dumpling dining, just get there early or prepare to queue.
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Din Tai Fung
Shop 11.04, Level 1, World Square Shopping Centre
(walk up the stairs near Bay Swiss)
644 George St, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9264 6010
Open 7 days 11am-2.30pm, 5-10pm
This has been included on Grab Your Fork's Top 10 Sydney Eats for Tourists. Read the entire list here.
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7/14/2008 10:32:00 p.m.