Din Tai Fung
Shop 3-9, GF, 68 Yee Woo Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Specializing in xiao long bao (small steamed buns), Din Tai Fung () is a restaurant chain that originated from Taiwan with stores located in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States. It's like the McDonalds of Chinese food. Both locations in Hong Kong (Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay) was awarded one Michelin Star in the Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide 2011. On a side note, what is up with the Michelin guy judging food? He sells tires. Though, it seems like he packing some extra junk in the trunk... But I shouldn't judge.
Anyway, Din Tai Fung features an open kitchen so that you can watch in awe as the chefs pump out little xiao long bao like an automated assembly line. There was a nice lineup going when we arrived for dinner. We browsed through the menu and selected our items on the order form as we waited for our table. The menu features photographs beside each item to aid those who can't read Chinese. Or English. Or just want to look at pretty pictures. It is interesting to note the pictures are a very close depiction of the final product. What you see is what you get. If you were secretly hoping you would get more stuff, I wouldn't hold your breath.
When we were finally seated, we put in our order. The food began to arrive shortly after. As usual, I had my camera in one hand and chopsticks in the other, stuffing my face while taking poorly composed photos at the same time. Multitasking is clearly not my forte. Also note that I had this meal over a month ago. Some of the details are a little fuzzy (Read: Really fuzzy) so I will breeze through them and throw down a blurb or two if I remember anything about it. Alright, dish one - Shanghai styled smoked fish (). I have no clue what type of fish. All I know is the meat was firm and it was very flavourful.
Dish two was the chilled bitter melon ().
Next up is the kalimeris and tofu salad (). The ingredients were finely chopped, mixed together and served cold. Like revenge. But tastier. And everyone wins.
Wok fried green bean with minced pork and dried shrimp ().
The renowned xiao long bao () (top) arrived next in it's signature bamboo basket. Which was quickly followed by an order of crab meat xiao long bao () (bottom). Note the slightly orangey-er tone. The buns (not dumplings, despite the resemblance) are stuffed with pork (and crab meat) and aspic. Once steamed, the gelatinous aspic melts to create the tongue scorching, mouth burning soup inside the bun. Super tasty. If you were to only order one thing at Din Tai Fung, order the xiao long bao.
Next up, the vegetable and pork dumplings () (top?) and the vegetable and mushroom dumplings () (possibly bottom). You might be thinking "Whoa David, these dumplings look exactly like the buns, what makes them different?" Well, let me tell you - The main difference is how it is prepared. Xiao long baos and buns are closed by pinching the dough at the crown so that a ring of folds is formed. Jiaozi or dumplings are form via folding the dough in half and pinching it close along the edge. There is a direct correlation between the number of ripples on the bun or dumpling and the price of the dish. The more ripples it has, the higher the complexity, the more they charge. Facts of life.
I'm pretty sure this next dish is the zha jiang noodles ().
This is followed by a fried pork chop noodle soup (). The pork chop is served separately to preserve the crispiness of the meat.
The next dish to arrive was the vegetable and pork won ton noodle soup ().
We finished off the savory dishes with a plate of fried rice with shrimp and shredded pork ().
We ordered a variety of desserts. The first to arrive was the almond tofu pudding () (definitely top). Followed quickly by a fruit (cantaloupe) tapioca soup () (bottom) and a taro tapioca soup () (not shown). The taro tapioca was the highlight of the three. The aroma of taro filled the air as it was brought into the room. I was a little slow on the photo and it was half gone by the time it came around to me.
Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. I love the open kitchen concept. Unfortunately, we were seated in the VIP room upstairs.
Food: 7 out of 10. Above average. Some items were better than others.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. An impressive showing of skill in the xiao long baos and dumplings.
Price: N/A. I have no idea what the bill came to so I will not comment.
Service: 6.5 out of 10. Average service.
Overall: 7 out of 10. Good but not sure if I would wait in line for several hours for a table as noted in other blogs. I only waited 30 minutes for the rest of my party to show up.