Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Taipei: Our Pilgrimage To Din Tai Fung

Maybe we didn't make it to the Sun Yat-sen or Chiang Lai-shek memorials. In our defense, all we can say is that we have our priorities and we did make it to Din Tai Fung, the venerable home of Xiaolongbao, known in English as soup dumplings.

The history of this Taiwan-based restaurant, now with outlets in many countries, is interesting and no doubt an inspiration to would-be restaurateurs. 

We took the easy way out, and the MRT, by going two stops to the nearest outlet, located in the basement food fair of a large department store. As far as we could tell, it was just as well organized and tasted just as good as anything served in the more "authentic" locations.

People commonly take a number and line up for 60 minutes or more to get a table, writing up their order as they wait. We went mid-afternoon and were seated too quickly to have made our decisions. The employees, although running in all directions, were unfailingly friendly and helpful.

Once seated we perused the full menu further, while sneaking an admiring glance at the restaurant's modest announcement of its Michelin Star.

As an appetizer, we chose green beans with pork. Who would know that this is a dish served cold? Still, it was very tasty.
Another house special was sold out, and our friendly young trainee-waiter (according to his badge) suggested a pork chop as an alternative. Pork chop it is...
Now it was time for the real reason we came here: soup dumplings. Along with the dumplings comes a friendly sign showing one how to properly eat and enjoy them.

How to describe Xiaolongbao? They are comfort food, lovely little pillows with a warm and subtle liquid broth filling. They are, quite simply, delicious, enough so that we ordered ourselves one more round - all right - two more rounds but who's counting? We tried to order the green onion pancake that niece Haley told us about, but learned just in time that they were going to bring us a pineapple "cake" due to a language misunderstanding. Another order of soup dumplings was a good way for everybody to save face.
Delicious, and our entire meal cost us less than USD $25.

We realized only today there there is a branch of Din Tai Fung virtually down the road from us in Bellevue, Washington. We'll have to stop in there one of these days.

In the meantime, we can say we've dined well in the "original location," if by that we mean Taipei.

From there it was back via the MRT to the Sheraton and our final Happy Hour in the lounge - not a bad way to spend October 1.

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