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Monday, 27 August 2012

Chinese Fine Dining—Din TAAAAAAIIII FUUUUUNG

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Richard finally got some days off…plus his parents are visiting from HK – which means… 2/3 of the yummy crew is going on a family vacation! So, day one of our weekend getaway… Bellevue. We were debating between staying in Seattle (done many times) or Bellevue. Being the food bloggers we now are…and the fact that there were these steamed buns to try in Bellevue, the answer was simple! Once we settled in the hotel, we made our way to Din Tai Fung immediately. Well, I did try to make a dinner reservation, but nobody picked up. :(
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We made our way to the restaurant, only to find that the place is packed! I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising. The waitress told us that there would be a 30-40 minute wait.
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Unlike many Chinese restaurant, Din Tai Fung has a bar. I guess when a big portion of their clients are not Chinese, this is a necessary touch. For the bar, there is no line-up. If you see a seat, it’s yours.
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While waiting, Richard and I walked around waiting area. There is a big poster explaining Din Tai Fung’s history and how it became the first Taiwanese restaurant to be recognized by the Michelin Star Restaurant Guide. Part of the kitchen is also open for public viewing. You can see how they put together their famous dumplings and Xiao Long Bao.
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We waited and waited and waited…. It must’ve been an hour… and finally, we got our seat
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The server quickly and pleasantly greeted us. We were given a menu with colourful display of their wide food selection. Of course, there is a big zoom in picture of Din Tai Fung’s famous Xiao Long Bao. There were also dumplings, rice, noodle, soup and Chinese dessert on the menu. Interesting, different from many fine dining Chinese restaurant, there was a small selection of bubble tea. When we were waiting, we had a good look at their menu and we kind of knew what we were ordering. Without further ado, we quickly ordered xiao long bao, dumplings, fried rice cakes, dan dan noodles, and beef noodles.
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The eating utensils were thoughtful and modern. Everything is clean and nice. This place ain’t sloppy. 
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Each person gets their own dish of sliced ginger to make sauce for the xiao long bao, much like Dinesty in Richmond.
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The waiter explained that their recommendations is to use three parts vinegar and one part soy sauce. Obviously the bigger bottle above was the vinegar.
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We picked up some of the shrimp & pork dumplings. At $9.50 for 10, these were some pretty pricey steamed dumplings. I thought they were just okay… not sensational by any means. 
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Next up were the famed xiao long bao or juicy pork dumplings. They arrived looking kinda saggy, which wasn’t a good sign. Excellent xiao long bao is supposed to have plenty of soup inside, which makes it look all puffy. One bite into one of these dumplings confirmed that there’s not much soup in these things… disappointing! I personally think that the xiao long bao in Richmond is much better. So much for a Michelin Star rated restaurant…
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The dan dan noodles (noodle with sesame sauce) was much too dry, which such a tiny amount of minced pork perched on top. It seemed like the noodles had been sitting there for some time before it got to us as it was quite dry and stuck together.
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We also got a hot and sour soup, which at the waiter’s recommendation was a large size for the five of us. I would say it was one of the better dishes of the night, with plenty of tofu, egg, pork, bamboo shoots etc.
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This was the Shanghai rice cake with pork. Not bad – with chewy rice cake and some veggies and pork interspersed.
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Now we only got a picture of one piece of beef for the next dish, which was the braised beef noodle soup. I thought this was by far the best dish of the night, though it pales in comparison to the Taiwanese beef noodle soup we can find in Vancouver/Richmond. The beef was really well seasoned and braised to a point where it was just melt-in-your-mouth kind of tender.
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Now the drinks were by far the MOST impressive part of the meal, and all because of these bright yellow pearls, or popping boba as they were known on the menu. Anthony and I were super intrigued by the line “add popping boba” for $0.50. Now we assumed that boba was just pearls that we can find at any bubble tea place here, but POPPING boba? I pictured those pop rocks candy… and didn’t think that made any sense. So we asked the waiter and he patiently explained that they had two kinds, mango and yogurt. Essentially, these things have a very very thin coat of gelatin on the outside and was filled with either mango juice or yogurt. We decided that we had to try both so we ordered two drinks and put popping boba in each. We agreed that these were much better than the conventional pearls. I don’t know about you, but the normal pearls are SO CHEWY and becomes a chore to eat by the end of the drink. These popping pearls, however, burst open at the slightest pressure and are filled with yummy yogurt or mango juice. OH SO AWESOME! We began discussing possible entrepreneurship ideas with these little buggers…but alas, they can already be found in Vancouver…at none other than Green Leaf Natural Food Bubble Tea.
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We ended our meal with some steamed taro dumplings. The funny part was that the skin of these buns was sooooo sticky that it sticks to a single chopstick held upside down. These weren’t too bad.

The Yummies:
  • Service was very good – with an attentive waiter despite how busy the restaurant was
  • Relatively good and authentic Chinese food in an area with not much better options…
  • Popping boba! Enough said :)
The Yuckies:
  • LONG wait
  • Quite pricey dumplings, though it doesn’t cost too much to fill you up


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