Din Tai Fung
Level 4, Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne, VIC 3000
After 3 months in Europe, K and I were absolutely ecstatic to be able to eat some great Chinese food back home, and Din Tai Fung was the obvious choice. This Michelin-starred (Hong Kong) restaurant chain opened in the Melbourne Emporium earlier this year, and in the weeks following, saw consistently massive lines snaking out from its entrance on the upper floor. Even though the hype has died down somewhat since then, K and I didn’t take any chances and arrived ready for our feast well before the Friday night dinner rush.
We were seated without delay – I was immediately taken aback by the efficiency and quality of the waiters, chattering away on their earpieces and bowing to us as we walked by – it was Asian hospitality at its best. The décor was clean and contemporary, a mix of wood, marble and even a few pops of greenery. All of this made for an excellent first impression.
Beautifully soft and smooth tofu – tasteless on its own but paired with the sweet pork floss and salty soy sauce, really balances the dish. I was impressed with amount of pork floss and century egg served – this really brought back some childhood memories for me.
This is a dish that’s amazing when cooked well and boring when not – it relies heavily on the chef’s ability to achieve the perfect work hei (breath of a wok). Luckily, the version at Din Tai Fung did not disappoint, with tender green beans that were full of flavour.
Of course, no meal at Din Tai Fung is complete without a serving of their famous Xiao Long Bao! Naturally, as the traditionalists we are, we chose the pork option. Eight perfect little dumplings greeted us, painstakingly hand-made and placed into the bamboo steamer. The skin was unbelievably delicate, more so than any other XLB I’ve ever had, although each and every dumpling remained intact until eaten – a true feat. The filling was soft and perhaps just a tad too subtle in flavour for my liking, but delicious nonetheless.
Again, a very subtle flavour in the mince compared to the ones we’ve had in the past, but I actually quite enjoyed it. There was less pork than usual but a few unusual additions like edamame beans, which added a nice crunch.
My personal favourite of the whole meal. It’s often hard to get the salt/spicy/sweet/sour balance right on these sauces, and I thought it was done perfectly here, with the bonus of peppercorns which added just the right amount of numbing effect. The veg and pork wontons were probably about 90% vegetable, but with such a strong flavoured sauce, this hardly mattered. The noodles were pretty standard, not terrible, but not amazing either.
I appreciated that the taro filling wasn’t too sweet, but all in all this was a fairly unexciting bun.
This was a really interesting and unexpected bun. The picture definitely looked like a custard bun, but to our surprise, the filling was actually more like egg yolk! It was sweet and salty, and surprisingly yummy!
Having never been to Din Tai Fung in Asia before, I’m not able to compare the branches, but I definitely thoroughly enjoyed my meal here. Even though the prices are steeper than your run-of-the-mill dumpling place, I feel that it’s worth it for a special occasion. The portion sizes are reasonable and the food and service was of a very high quality. However, looking at the menu, there are a few items that seem a bit gimmicky and I can imagine it’d be pretty easy to order poorly and have a bad experience. That being said, if you avoid these and order the tried-and-true dishes, Din Tai Fung is well worth a visit!