Talk of Din Tai Fung’s perfect xiao long bao aka soup dumplings (or steamed mini pork buns) has been all over town. And as a result, it has been reviewed by almost every food blog and lifestyle magazine in the last 2 months since the official opening at Sydney’s World Square.
I finally took my camera along and joined the queue.
Outside, on a wet Friday evening, over 50 people hungrily waited for their ticket number to be called. I’m not sure how it works in the other 41 branches worldwide, but they’ve implemented a rather efficient ordering system here which keeps the big crowds happy.
Firstly, when you request for a table, the number of seats you require is scribbled down against a ticket number. The staff present you with a paper menu which has the corresponding ticket number on the top right. Hence while you wait, you’re able to debate over your order and hopefully, by the time your table is ready, the paper menu would have quantity numbers next to each of the dishes you’re ordering. (You’re able to add to the order once you’ve seated)
To help customers get even more excited after they’ve mapped out their orders, there are ceiling high windows which reveal a team of masked and white lab coat dressed cooks, busily mixing, kneeding and wrapping dumpling after dumpling. Such care was given to each task. At one time, a woman took out what looked to be a pre-prepared symmetrical cube of wonton wrappers… she folded the top sheet into a triangular half and proceeded to slice off the spare millimeters of pastry to ensure that the wontons would be wrapped in accuracy.
Beside the dumpling kitchen was a massive full benchtop steamer. The picture below shows just how high they were stacked!
Steamer stacked high with dumplings
Behind the scenes in the dumpling kitchen
After waiting for just a little less than an hour, I impatiently asked the waitress how much longer I’d have to wait, considering several people who had arrived after me were seated already. She asked if a share-table was OK and without too much though, I agreed. If I had been aware that it was a round communal table, I probably would have thought twice. Lesson learnt.
Once seated, the waiters and waitresses confirmed our order and within minutes, dishes start popping up on the table. First off were their signature soup dumplings, six for $8.80. The pastry skin was admirably paper-thin and so delicate. The recommended method to eating them was to dip it with soy and vinegar, place it on a spoon while stabbing a little hole into the top to let the hot steam out, and after adding a few bits of shredded ginger, you slurp it whole, allowing the soup to burst in your mouth.
Xiaolongbao aka soup dumplings, six for $8.80
I really appreciated the perfection of each tiny morsel. Din Tai Fung claims that each of the xiao long bao have at least 18 pleats in them, and by the looks of things, it’s most likely true. The casing was almost translucent and flawless in appearance but was also strong enough not to break when picked up with chopsticks.
The soup dumplings again
Delicate casing of the soup dumpling
Available for a limited time were these special steamed crab meat with crab roe and pork soup dumplings. They looked the same as the original pork variety… additionally hinting a light tender crab flavour… not quite worth the $15.80 I’d paid for the serving of six.
Steamed crab meat with crab roe and pork dumpling, six for $15.80
I also had this fruity green slurpee looking drink which was a delectable blend of lychee and mint.
Lychee and mint juice
The shrimp and pork shao mai didn’t resemble the yum cha kind. They were flavoursome and reflective of the house specialty’s soup dumpling filling. It was quite simply better than any shao mai I have ever tasted.
Shrimp and pork parcels, shao mai, four for $9.80
Cucumber salad in vinaigrette dressing, $3.50… the ideal condiment.
Steering away from Din Tai Fung’s specialty dumplings, we tried the noodles with stir-fried pork and broad beans which were nice but pretty ordinary.
Cha Jiang Lai Mian aka noodles with stir fried pork and broad beans, $11.80
The wonton soup wasn’t overly exciting either, although i did notice the perfect alignment of the casing’s edges.
Shrimp and pork wonton soup, six for $8.80
As soon as the waiter noticed we had finished our savoury dishes, he checked our order and signaled to the kitchen that we were ready for the dessert to be brought out. These golden taro rolls looked simple but tasted great. And it wasn’t a tough choice either, considering a significant section of the dessert menu was ‘unavailable’.
Golden taro bread, fried and topped with sesame seeds, 2 rolls for $5.80
For 2 people, we paid $76 and left wanting a little bit more.
Din Tai Fung
Shop 11.04, Level 1, World Square Shopping Centre
(walk up the stairs near Bay Swiss)
644 George St, Sydney