It’s not a very well-guarded secret, but it’s a shockingly delicious surprise nonetheless for those not in the know. Washington hosts two of Din Tai Fung’s six American locations, the other four being in Los Angeles and Orange County. Why journey halfway across the nation or the state to experience Din Tai Fung’s fare? You’re about to find out.
Din Tai Fung is an Asian restaurant that originated in Taiwan. It specializes specifically in soup dumplings, but hosts an array of other dishes including chicken fried rice and pork buns. Yang Bingyi, founder of Din Tai Fung, moved to Taiwan from China in 1948 due to the Chinese Civil War. Ten years later he and his wife began Din Tai Fung, the name of which was a combination of his previous employer’s company name and his new supplier’s company name. At first Din Tai Fung was a cooking oil retailer, but in the 1980’s they began selling steamed buns and eventually it would become a full restaurant due to the buns’ popularity in 1972.
From such humble beginnings arose the Din Tai Fung we know today. On top of its origin country Taiwan, the restaurant has branches in China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, and, as we know, the United States. In 1993 The New York Times named Din Tai Fung one of the top 10 gourmet restaurants in the world, and in 2009 one of the Hong Kong branches was awarded one Michelin Star. The second Hong Kong branch also won one Michelin star in 2010.
Enough history lessons. When it comes to Din Tai Fung, it’s a travesty if the food isn’t the main topic of discussion. The restaurant gained its first beginnings of a reputation by producing what is called xiaolongbao, and it’s never stopped producing them since. Today the steamed dumplings, otherwise known as steamed buns, are still Din Tai Fung’s most popular fare. These soup dumplings are handmade by a crew of chefs held to the strictest of regimes to produce them in their strictest perfection.
Xiaolongbao are served in wooden steam platters and have a precise process of construction that would confound even the most skilled American cook. These dumplings are typically eaten with a large spoon, as when you bite into them they spill a delightfully delicious and hot soup out, and the spoon allows you to catch all of the goodness at once. It’s not quite enough to describe it to you- you have to try it for yourself.
Start planning your dinner or lunch now. There are two locations in Washington: one in Bellevue, one in the Seattle University District. The restaurant becomes slammed as soon as it opens and they have a peculiar process of making sure it runs as efficiently as possible. When your turn comes to be seated, make sure you have your entire party with you, or you won’t be allowed in.
Your order is taken on a sheet of paper with the menu listed, and you are served almost immediately. It’s an incredible experience from every point of view, and you may just walk away with your appetite only whetted for the succulent soup dumplings that are always waiting for you at Din Tai Fung.