We were told we had to go.
Din Tai Fung, originating in Taiwan, is famous world-wide for its steller steamed buns (xiaolongbao) and dumplings. There are chains throughout Asia, the Pacific and the US. There are five Din Tai Fungs in Taipei city alone! So we went to the Xinyi one (a ten minute walk from us) and we waited for 20 minutes to get in. The restaurant runs a pretty slick operation. Basically you show up at the door and a waitress takes your name and the number of people in your party. She then hands you a menu, a pen, and a clipboard with a piece of paper showing all the menu selections. She also gives you a number. You stand outside and mark down what you would like to eat when you are inside and hand it back to the waitress. There is a florescent sign showing a number over the door and when your number appears, you can go in.
We didn’t mind waiting outside as there was plenty of entertainment provided by the dumpling makers in the kitchen.
Once inside we were told what floor to go to (the restaurant is 3 or 4 floors). On the table was the sheet we marked with our menu selection, two cups of complimentary tea, and sliced ginger.
A waitress came over to the table and showed us how to mix the special dumpling dipping sauce (ginger+soy sauce+vinegar) and told us how to dip the dumplings to ensure we got the most out of our Din Tai Fung experience.
There was also a handy little sheet explaining the process in case we forgot.
Shortly after our tutorial our first course of dumplings arrived (pork and crab roe).
Next we received these vegetarian ones (mushroom and green veg).
And finally we had shrimp and pork wontons.
To finish an interesting looking steamed glutinous rice with fruit ‘treasures’ for dessert.
The food was very tasty but since this was our first dumpling experience in Taiwan we have nothing to compare it to. The restaurant is a well run operation – they have it down to a fine art. I read online that once inside you only have 40 minutes to eat and then they ask you to get a move on. The atmosphere is also very cafeteria-like so you do get the sense it’s not really a place to linger nor somewhere you would go for a romantic meal. The plus side is that it is very English-friendly and pretty cheap (by NZ and US standards but not by Taiwan standards). So if we go back it would probably be for lunch with visitors.