Din Tai Fung, CBD

Din Tai Fung is a dumpling restaurant that opened in Emporium Melbourne not too long ago, the first in Melbourne to come out of the famous Taiwanese chain. I was super excited to hear that they were finally opening in Melbourne, and am happy to say that it tastes just as good as the original restaurant in Taiwan.

The first thing to note about Din Tai Fung is the time it'll take to get a table. It's usually about an hour wait for lunch, though in my opinion, it's definitely worth it. When you first arrive, you're asked given a menu with tickbox options and a buzzer that has a range of 500m, that'll tell you when there's a table ready. We went around 1130am on a Saturday and were told it would be about an hour wait, and we happily went down to the food court to decide what we wanted. I also went another time for dinner, and was lucky enough to get a table within ten minutes at about 615pm.

When we went for lunch, we were lucky enough that we only had to wait 45 minutes before our buzzer went off, and upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted with a Welcome by every single staff member as we were taken to our table, near the back of the restaurant. The service here is pretty much excellent; covers are put on jackets if they are hung on the back of chairs, and there are basket like racks to put your bags in as well. The staff are extremely friendly and attentive, and our food came in under five minutes after we'd placed our order. Given my excitement at having Din Tai Fung in Melbourne, my friend and I might have gone a little overboard and ordered a bit too much food, but it there were so many things on the menu we wanted to try that we decided we had to get it all!

Of course, we ordered the Xiao Long Bao ($10.80 for 6), the most famous dish at Din Tai Fung. These are not like most of the dumplings one might be used to eating from Chinese restaurants; for one, they're a bit smaller in size, and each has been intricately hand made with 18 folds. Xiao Long Baos are filled with quite a bit of broth as well as the filling, and each table actually has instructions on how to eat them. The skin was lovely and thin, but still sturdy enough that the broth and filling didn't come out until you bit into the dumpling. The dumplings are very light and you can easily polish off 6 by yourself and not feel extremely full.

Apart from the normal Xiao Long Bao, we also got the ones with crab meat and roe ($17.80). I felt that these dumplings had a little less soup than the pork ones, but were still very tasty, and you could actually taste the roe flavour in it, combined with the pork.

Another famous dish we ordered was the beef noodles ($16.80), a very popular and traditional dish in Taiwan. Beef noodles is as the name suggests; a noodle base dish with slices of beef, in a rich, hearty broth and served with spring onion as garnish. Again, this was a very enjoyable dish with a really flavoursome broth, and the pieces of beef were extremely soft and tender when the dish first came out, though it did become a little tough by the end. The noodles also came in quite a big clump, and was hard to separate, especially as we were sharing between two. However, it had decent elasticity and the ratio of noodle and beef was just right.

In terms of appetisers, we chose to go with the classic Din Tai Fung Vegetarian Delight ($6.80), which consisted of thin strips of seaweed and beancurd with beanshoots, drizzled in a vinegar dressing. It's a very light, refreshing dish with ample crunch from the different ingredients, though I did find the dressing a bit too acidic and sour for my liking.

The other appetiser we went with was the Fried Chicken Fillet ($10.80), which had a really crisp and thin layer of batter covering a really tender and juicy piece of chicken fillet inside. The chicken was cut into long slices, and wasn't oily at all.

For dessert, we ordered three mini buns; a red bean, sesame and taro one ($6), as well as the Golden Lava ($2.50) one. The red bean bun had a good portion of filling to bun and wasn't overly sweet. The sesame one had a good sweetness but wasn't overpowering, and the texture of the filling was a little grainy. In contrast, the taro filling was extremely smooth, and there was a good sweet taro flavour. In all of the buns the bun itself was a little on the hard/tough side, but not to the point where you couldn't chew it. When my friend and I decided to order the Golden Lava bun, we thought it'd be like the ones at yum cha that was sweet on the inside, and so were surprised when it turned out to be a savoury (and runny!) filling, because of the egg yolk in the bun.

Overall I was really happy with my experience here at Din Tai Fung, and will definitely be coming back again to try some of the other dishes, even if's a bit of a wait for food and some of the dishes are a little pricey. The quality of the food plus the dining experience makes up for this, and I'd highly recommend coming for a great dumpling experience, different to most you'd get in Melbourne.

Ambience: 9/10
Service: 10/10
Food: 9/10
Price: $$$

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