A freelance writer, and amateur photographer Dora also teaches creative writing classes. Check out her website at www.creativejuicy.com
Published July 20th 2011
It's not just world renowned chef Ken Hom who has gone out on a limb and described Sydney restaurant Din Tai Fung as the place you will get the 'world's tastiest dumpling'.
Located in World Square in the heart of Sydney CBD, the Taiwanese restaurant is one of a famous worldwide chain. Everyone, and I mean everyone I know who has dined at Din Tai Fung, has come away with the slightly euphoric, sort of glazed-over look, typical of those who have just experienced a state of transcendent joy and contentment. Planning a return trip is already firmly implanted in your psyche.
Xiao Long Bao, or steamed Shanghai soup dumplings are best described as 'little balls of happiness'. I'll have to credit that description to my daughter, who got me hooked a couple of weeks ago.
What's so special about Din Tai Fung? All I can say is - everything.
Let's start at the beginning. The restaurant is always full to overflowing, and they do not take bookings. This means you need to carefully plan your visit, whether it's lunch time or dinner. On arrival, unless you've decided to get there half an hour before opening, you'll almost certainly have to wait for a table. It's quite civilized, and carefully organized though. They hand you a self-fill-in menu, a pen and a buzzer which lets you know when your table is ready.
While you wait, you can watch the phenomenon in the kitchen as dozens of artisans, clad in white from head to toe and wearing surgical masks craft these dumplings from heaven with almost scientific precision.
They work tirelessly in a bustling kitchen without ever bumping into each other. One person lines baskets with white cotton cloths. You see others stretching the hand made dough, rolling, filling and twisting the dumplings into shape. Every dumpling pastry is delicately hand made;
'Every one measures between precisely 4.8 and 5.2 grams at conception, with an exact 6cm diameter, before being stuffed to weigh between 20.6 and 21.4 grams'.
But what's in these dumplings that makes them so good? Well they're called soup dumplings, but the amazing thing is that the soup is inside the dumplings.
There is an art to eating these little delicate little morsels, but it doesn't take long to learn. Resist the urge to plunge in immediately. Give them about 15 seconds to cool. then, you can pick one up with your chopsticks and use the 'pop it in all at once' method. (The soup inside will be hot, so be careful). As you bite down, the explosion of soup, the flavour of the filling and the texture of the wonton skin all meld into one utterly unbeatable sensation in your mouth. Sound a bit over-the-top? I assure you - you can't possibly be over-the-top about this.
The great thing is that once you've ordered, you won't have to wait long for your food to arrive. This restaurant is all about turning around quality food very quickly. That's not to say you feel rushed, but it's not exactly the kind of restaurant where atmosphere is the winning factor. However, the service is great and the ever-scurrying waiters are only to happy to bring you extra drinks, or even add anther dish to your order. The inside of the restaurant is quirkily decorated with bamboo steamers, soup spoons and other kitchen items.
While the dumplings are the signature dish, there are plenty of other delicious morsels on the menu. I can thoroughly recommend the 'Drunken Chicken'. This is steamed chicken, steeped in alcohol of some sort, and served cold. It's a taste sensation and goes beautifully with your soup dumplings.
It's a guarantee that once you've dined at Din Tai Fung, the event will play on your mind ever after. You'll feel as though you've been introduced to illicit substances, and will want to become a Din Tai Fung 'pusher'. I'm certainly one of those - and there are no twelve step programs that can help.
Opening Hours: Lunch
Mon to Fri 11:30am - 2:30pm
Sat to Sun 11am - 3pm Dinner
Mon to Wed 5:30pm - 9pm
Thu to Sat 5pm - 9:30pm
Sun 5pm - 9pm
Open on Christmas Eve
Open on New Years Day
Open on New Years Eve
Open on Public Holidays
Amen to that - one of my favourite places to eat too. I regularly go there with a bunch of friends on a Sunday. We've never been disappointed.
By lizzy13 - reader Thursday, 28th of July @ 03:47 am
By sherr22 - reader Thursday, 28th of July @ 04:01 am
I can't get enough of xiao long bao! Love Din Tai Fung so much.
By Sarah Han - senior reviewer Friday, 29th of July @ 12:35 pm
Too true Sarah...I find I actually can't let a whole week go by without having to visit and get my fix! What do they put in those things?? I've even tried to make my own, however it's obvious I need more training...
By Dora Bona - senior reviewer Friday, 29th of July @ 10:42 pm
LOVE the soup dumplings. I went to a place in Chatswood the other day but their dumplings were nowhere near as good. This place is da bomb!
By giovanni - reader Monday, 1st of August @ 10:31 pm
My favourite restaurant of all time
By Kellyann - reader Wednesday, 3rd of August @ 01:16 am
Best dumplings ever. The xiao long bao are some of the tastiest creations to be found in the city. Well worth the effort of having to line up.