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Monday, July 14, 2008

Din Tai Fung, Sydney

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.

View Larger Map

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.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Dumplings--China Noodle King
Dumplings--Chinese Noodle Rest'rant (Jun07)
Dumplings--Chinese Noodle Rest'rant (Oct04)
Dumplings--Daniang Dumpling
Dumplings--East Ocean yumcha (Aug 06)
Dumplings--East Ocean yum cha (Aug 05)
Dumplings--East Ocean yum cha (Oct 04)
Dumplings--Shanghai Night (Jul 08)
Dumplings--Shanghai Night (Mar 06)
Dumplings--Uighur Cuisine
Dumplings--Zilver (Jan 07)
Dumplings--Zilver (Feb 06)
17 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/14/2008 10:32:00 pm


  • At 7/15/2008 1:17 pm, Blogger Thermomixer said…

    Thanks AG - sounds like a great alternative to East Ocean when we come to Sydney next. Thanks also for the flickr view of "How to.." Love Asian food but always feel a fool and don't know haow to eat properly in Asian restaurants.

  • At 7/15/2008 3:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have always been a fan of Din Tai Fung, coming from Singapore. But I prob will have to agree with you that Shanghai Night is probably does better xiao long baos.. I will have to try the Din Tai Fung here in Sydney tho!

    Thanks for the review

  • At 7/15/2008 3:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can't wait to try this.. ! heard so much about it.. and it only got to singapore.. when i left. what a bummer eh.

  • At 7/15/2008 4:50 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    A bunch of folks from work, plus myself went to Din Tai Fung for dinner on Friday night after drinks.

    It's nice food - but since we arrived at about 9:45 (on a Friday night), last orders were taken just as we sat down. So, we felt a little rushed to eat and leave quickly.

    That said, it was nice food, and I'd probably go back - but it would have to be earlier.

  • At 7/15/2008 5:50 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    How great is it! The fried green beans with blackbean and pork as well as the cucumber salad are also fabulous accompaniments to the Xiao Long Bao...we ended up waiting 45minutes for a table last Thursday...but as you know...its worth it!

  • At 7/16/2008 6:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i found it just a bit too bland. especially the broth of the wonton noodle soup. too much hype and not enough substance from my point of view. i have been to the Singapore one too. i'm thinking high rents, so many staff and attention to making them all look perfect has bumped the price up but i think they need to concentrate more of the taste sensation. better priced and tastier to be found at Shanghai Night (especially their Vegetable Dumplings), Chinese Noodle Restaurant and I'm hoping Kingsford Dumpling House this saturday when i visit.

    Simon :-)

  • At 7/16/2008 7:55 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi thermomixer - Oh it's hard to beat yum cha :) And don't worry about feeling a fool, as long as you're enjoying your meal you're always a winner!

    Hi einna - I think I do prefer Shanghai Night overall - an updated post to come soon!

    Hi Mama Bok - Oh what a shame. Good excuse to go home again though! lol

    Hi Will Hughes - I would definitely recommend an earlier arrival. A closing kitchen is rarely at their best :)

    Hi Melissa Leong - We were actually tossing up between the beans and the spinach :)

    Hi Simon Leong - I did think the flavours were a lot more subtle. Subtle/bland - I guess it depends on what side of the fence you're sitting :) The skins are definitely a lot more delicate and elegant though.

  • At 7/17/2008 12:18 am, Blogger Rachel said…

    hmm from your pics of the menu and decor, it looks alot like the din tai fung I went to in Singapore. Its probably aiming to be the Mc Donalds of Asian food ? Like you, I didn't thinkt he XLB were anything spesh.

    That said, I did enjoy the desserts there so might pay this place a visit :)

  • At 7/17/2008 9:31 am, Blogger Eileen Chong said…

    OMG it's here. I'm so starved for good dumplings... although in Singapore Crystal Jade Shanghai Palace tended to do better xiao long pao. I'm also going to try Shanghai Night! Thanks Helen! Now how am I going to go on diet??

    And Simon, what is this Kingsford Dumpling House? I am at Kensington and I have never seen it. Must find out!

  • At 7/17/2008 4:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    we went to Din Tai Fung on Saturday for lunch. We arrived at 11:30am and had to wait about 30mins for a table, but we were able to peruse the menu and order in this time. The food was lovely and our favourite by far was the green beans with minced pork - absolutely delicious! We are still yet to try Shanghai night, but we keep reading so many good things about it that we will just have to go there...and soon!

  • At 7/18/2008 9:15 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Rachel - McDumpling perhaps :) And there was still a page of desserts that were listed as 'unavailable'. I have heard good things about their Eight Treasure Glutinous Rice so hopefully it'll be available in Sydney soon!

    Hi E - Ahh who wants to diet? Everything in moderation, I say :)

    Hi Renee - I'll be posting on Shanghai Night soon. Their dumplings are so tasty and so cheap too!

  • At 9/05/2008 3:23 pm, Blogger Dreams through the noise said…

    I went with a few friends a couple of weeks back and found it to be very enjoyable. We skipped all the entrees and ordered all the different types of dumplings (which my friend recommend we do). The Xiao long bao was may favourite and I long after their red bead dumpling, which, though small have such a intensity of red bean. Next time I want to try the taro :)

  • At 9/14/2008 2:21 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Dreamsthroughthenoise - Xiao long bao are always a marvel to behold. I would love to be able to make those dumpling folds but for now, I will happily eat out for them :)

  • At 11/11/2009 5:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The avocado drink is nice too

  • At 11/13/2009 5:08 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - I haven't tried the avocado drink at Din Tai Fung but mmm, if it's as good as my usual avocado shake, I'll have to order it next time!

  • At 9/24/2012 6:54 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Hi Helen,
    I'd be interested to hear your thought how this place stacks up against Singapore and HK. For ime its has been a let down the quality and the amount of broth in the xlb is just simply disappointing this is after several visits (september 2012 the latest)
    Strangley their outpost at star city and Westfield seems to be much much better and cheaper.


  • At 9/26/2012 1:30 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi XYzed - I haven't actually been to DTF in HK yet so I can't comment. I actually prefer Shanghai Night in Ashfield in XLB - the skins are thicker, but the broth seems heartier, and how can you beat the price!


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