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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Din Tai Fung, Sydney

Half the fun of dining at Din Tai Fung is the chance to watch the dumpling makers in action, clearly visible through the glassed-in kitchen out the front. There's always something to look at - from the man stretching a skipping rope of noodles by bouncing it effortlessly onto the metal bench; to the secret huddle of staff deftly folding dumplings in the corner; to the man checking the bamboo baskets of dumplings, cloaked in dramatic clouds of steam.

Dumpling production line

Four of us were headed to see Mary Poppins, and it seemed only fitting that our pre-theatre dinner involved a performance as well. The no-bookings policy means there's often a queue for a table (and you won't be seated until everyone in your party has arrived) but I'm quite happy to while away the time with my nose pressed up against the window, watching the white uniformed staff in the kitchen undertake their tasks with single-minded seriousness.

Separating the wonton skins with a flick of the wrist

There is plenty to marvel at, including the casualness of a staff member separating a pile of wonton skins by flicking their fist. It's like watching a magician perform a card trick, as the skins fan out perfectly - and she's not even looking at her hands as she works.

Weighing out the pastry dough for dumplings

Din Tai Fung take their dumpling-making very seriously. The pastry dough for each dumpling must weigh between 4.8 and 5.2 grams. The xiao long bao dumplings, for which they are famous, must measure exactly 6cm in diameter, have precisely 18 folds and weigh between 20.6 and 21.4 grams.

Folding wonton dumplings

Making siu mai dumplings

Dumpling teamwork

Handbag storage

We eventually make it into the bustling dining room, filled with the clatter of chopsticks and a constant tide of waiters delivering dishes to hungry diners. A portable carry-stand for keeping our handbags off the floor is opened with a flourish by our efficient waiter, and a silk chaircover is wordlessly placed over the jackets hanging on our chairs to protect them from accidental spillage.

Shrimp and pork siu mai $9.80

We start with the shrimp and pork siu mai, a little saggy in posture, but they stand up well in flavour, the soft pork mince topped with a layer of finely diced prawn.

Pork chop deboned, Taiwanese specialty $8.80

There's a significant difference between the menu photo and what eventually arrives when we order the Taiwanese specialtydeboned pork chop. The photo is a vision of golden crunch, but we end up with a rather greasy looking sodden pork chop that tastes much the same. It's heavy on the tongue and lingering in oily aftertaste.

Silken tofu with pork floss and century egg $7.50

Much more delightful is the silken tofu with pork floss and century egg, a textbook example of  triumph with simplicity. The cool block of slippery tofu is a textural contrast against the fluffy wads of sweet and salty pork floss and the puddle of sweet soy. Wedges of century egg add richness, the jellied whites tinted a glossy amber with a pungent yolk of grey that is sulfurous yet alluring.

Steamed pork xiao long bao soup dumpling $10.80

A steamer of xiao long bao soup dumplings arrives with snaking plumes of steam. The dumplings here have an elegance to them, with their thin skins and delicate pleating. We lift them gently with our chopsticks, watching the delicate parcels sag ominously with the weight of hot soup inside.

Eating a soup dumpling requires care and attention. We transfer the dumpling to a spoon, take a small bite from the side and slurp up the hot sweet broth inside. The dumping is then best dipped in a mixture of soy and vinegar, accenting the gentle flavour of the pork filling and the slippery smooth dumpling skin.

Braised beef soup served with Shanghainese noodle $15.80

Braised beef soup is a dark broth that is filled with a huddle of thin hand-pulled noodles and thin slices of cooked beef. A sprinkle of shallots adds lightness to this simple but winter-warming dish.

Chi jiang Shanghai noodle served dry with minced pork and diced dried bean curd $16.80

Chi jiang Shanghai noodles is one for the saucy fans, drenched in a thick bean paste gravy swollen with pork mince and cubes of tofu. It's salty, sweet and a little umami too, and leaves you licking your lips for more.

Mango pudding with fresh mango $7.80

We couldn't leave without a spoonful of sugar, could we? Our sweet tooths all emerge for dessert, starting with a vivid mango pudding in sunshine yellow. The mango is a little tart - even with a thimble of evaporated milk on the side.

Triple strawberry fantasy $9.80

Triple strawberry fantasy certainly makes our eyes widen when it lands on our table. It's a bright red concoction of shaved ice drenched in strawberry syrup, crowned with a scoop of strawberry ice cream and surrounded by fresh strawberry halves. Globs of strawberry jam and rivers of evaporated milk make this a sweet and icy cold finish.

Golden red bean bread $5.80

If deep-fried is more your calling, the golden red bean bread is for you. It tastes like a slice of white bread rolled up with red bean paste and deep-fried until crisp, the ends coated in a crunchy layer of sesame seeds.

Steamed mini black sesame bun $1.90 each

The steamed mini black sesame buns are probably my highlight though, petite rounds of soft sweet bun stuffed with a paste of nutty black sesame paste. It's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

View Larger Map
Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon

World Square Shopping Centre
Level 1, Shop 11.04, 644 George Street Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9264 6010

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 11.30am-2.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am-3pm

Monday to Wednesday 5.30pm-9pm
Thursday to Saturday 5pm-9.30pm
Sunday 5pm-9pm 

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Din Tai Fung, Sydney (Jul08)

Dumplings - New Shanghai, Ashfield
Dumplings - New Shanghai, Chatswood Chase
Dumplings - New Shanghai, Chatswood Lemon Grove
Dumplings - Shanghai Night, Ashfield
26 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/27/2011 02:48:00 am


  • At 7/27/2011 6:42 am, Anonymous Max said…

    Din Tai Fung Sydney has got to be the most overpriced, overrated eating place - just like Mamak. I avoid this place like the flesh-eating plague.

    For better dumpling experiences there are infinitely better places to go, such as:
    -anything in Ashfield
    -New Shanghai at Chatswood (Chase branch only)
    -the hole in the wall next to Menya Haymarket
    -the two Kingsford dumpling places (Chinese Dumpling House and the one across the road from it - can't remember the name but it's around two/three doors up from InChan Thai).

  • At 7/27/2011 8:03 am, Blogger Michelle Chin said…

    If you want the best xiao long bao, pay shanghai restaurant at jw marriot @ kl a visit. dumplings are much much nicer. The skin is translucent and you always get more than one soup spoon of broth per dumpling. :)

  • At 7/27/2011 8:20 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Gosh, such negativity! Now let me add mine. Those hand bag baskets are absurd! Lets just clutter what's left of floor space with silly baskets the size of a chair. Now about the dumplings, no they're not the best in the world but the worst they aint.

  • At 7/27/2011 9:42 am, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    Oh I love Din Tai Fung! We never had desser there cos we peaked too soon with the mains lol. I do love their avocado shake though. How was Mary Poppins????

  • At 7/27/2011 9:53 am, Blogger K said…

    Din Tai Fung is definitely overpriced but I wouldn't say their food is that terrible. I've tried some of the other places a previous poster mentioned and although they are also very good, I do find DTF's xiao long bao pastry to be one of the best in terms of thinness. And for those of us who can't venture overseas on a regular basis, I guess what we have here in Sydney will have to to. :)

    Did you enjoy the show? And where's the post where you tell us your group was peckish post-show and went to for desserts/snacks/etc??

  • At 7/27/2011 9:55 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I know it's hip to diss Din Tai Fung like Max has above, but I don't mind it. It's definitely not cheap but I haven't had a bad meal there and I love the taro toast & ice cream dessert (never tried the red bean version though).

  • At 7/27/2011 9:58 am, Blogger Brenda said…

    My mouth is watering at the photos of the sui long bao. Price might be high here but those dumplings look like they have had a lot of work put into them . Weighing it and pleating it to a specific standard is pretty special.

  • At 7/27/2011 10:17 am, Anonymous Nobal Glomad said…

    Better best bestest?? That's sort of negativity isn't doing anyone any favours... Let's celebrate the amazing choices we have in Sydney. We are a lucky to live in a city with such diverse offerings.

    Helen I concur - that Silken tofu with pork floss and century egg is my happy place... double yum. And those sesame steamed buns... mmmmmm

  • At 7/27/2011 10:20 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    just a spooooonful of sugarrrr makes the medicine go dowwwwwwn!

  • At 7/27/2011 10:21 am, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    i was here recently too! i wouldnt say its the best dumplings but i dont mind it once in a while. not my first choice of dumplings place of course! i love the silken tofu with pork floss and century egg - can eat that anytime of the day!

  • At 7/27/2011 11:31 am, Anonymous shaun@everybodylovesramen said…

    Lol. there's something in the water today :S

    I agree w/ chocolate suze.

  • At 7/27/2011 11:56 am, Blogger Mel said…

    Man, it's been about two years since I've been to DTF...I'm overdue for a visit ASAP. I love everything about this place (the queues excluded of course).

  • At 7/27/2011 12:48 pm, Anonymous J2Kfm said…

    I enjoy DTF's xiao long bao here in Malaysia too, more than the others. Though there are conflicting views on this.

  • At 7/27/2011 1:12 pm, Blogger Shanks said…

    They may be a tad overpriced but all those skilled pleaters don't work for nothing!! Love the look of the tofu dish and wasn't Mary Poppins fantastic!!

  • At 7/27/2011 3:03 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    *whimper* I've long wanted to try Din Tai Fung because, well, I feel I should want to, but those crazybum eggs with the tofu and the black sesame and red bean desserts just clinched it. If only my two work trips to Sydney this month weren't purely straight-up-and-back events :(

  • At 7/27/2011 4:40 pm, Blogger Pat said…

    Pedant that I am, I've been lashed by the pedants for calling XLB "dumplings" when of course they are, technically speaking, "buns". Reckon we can make the taxonomical jump in Sydney, or is "soup dumpling" a phrase too deeply ingrained in the eater mainstream now?

  • At 7/27/2011 6:19 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    i have a love hate relationship with DTF...the long lines, they are always sold out of what i want but their xiao long bao is oh so good.....

  • At 7/27/2011 11:07 pm, Blogger TheHungryMonkee said…

    I have yet to try DTF in Sydney, only tried the one in KL. So many times I have planned to go with frens, but always had to cancel due to reasons!! I have to go try it and see for myself how good it is - based on the photos you took, the food looks amazing!!

  • At 7/28/2011 7:44 am, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    My favourite is the braised beef soup with Shanghainese noodles - with their chinese chilli dipping sauce. Nice winter dish.

  • At 7/28/2011 2:05 pm, Anonymous Max said…

    I didn't even know that it was 'hip' to diss Din Tai Fung?

    I simply don't like Din Tai Fung because you can get better food for less money.

    And yes I agree with you Nobal Glomad, let's 'celebrate the amazing choices we have in Sydney' by supporting *good* food found at your small suburban eateries ;)

  • At 7/28/2011 2:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    DTF here is nothing compared to the awesomeness of DTF in TW sadly. Not to say it is bad just really overpriced and not as authentic or tasty. And don't get me started on that shaved ice -___- but still good to re-pre-sent TW yo

  • At 7/28/2011 3:28 pm, Anonymous Keely aka The Richest Girl in Bondi said…

    Seems like there's a few mixed feelings on DTF. I would give it a try though - is there really such a thing as a bad dumpling? I've never seen handbag stands anywhere other than fine dining spots.

  • At 7/28/2011 9:17 pm, Anonymous Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Mamak is overrated? What tripe!

  • At 7/31/2011 10:48 pm, Anonymous Iron Chef Shellie said…

    I can't wait to go here.... perhaps I'll make use of that handbag storage!?!?

  • At 12/02/2011 10:36 am, Blogger G said…

    Does anybody with a good palate know what type of vinegar Din Tai Fung has on the table for use as a dipping sauce for the Xiao long bao?

  • At 1/14/2012 10:22 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi G - I can't vouch for the exact vinegar they use at Din Tai Fung, but often Chinkiang Chinese black vinegar is used as a dipping sauce for dumplings.


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