Have you tried some of the best Xiao Long Bao there is?
eRunning a successful restaurant is hard work. Running many successful restaurants is even harder. Those that know me will not be surprised when I say that the Taiwanese Din Tai Fung restaurants would probably be my No 1 choice for dumplings. Yes I know I live in Shanghai with so many lovely food options available to me but Din Tai Fung really set a high standard both in their native Taiwan and Internationally. They have taken Xiao Long Bao - a Shanghainese soup dumpling - to the world at a standard few can get close to. It is a product they absolutely nail!
I have been to many DTFs in Asia and I always enjoy the consistent quality of both food and service. I am not sure how they maintain such high standards but they do. Yes some restaurants are slightly better than others on the day but I have yet to say I have yet to have a bad food experience. Service is generally excellent with a personal welcoming attitude from staff. Living in Shanghai has afforded me the chance to try nearly all the DTF restaurants there and generally about fortnightly frequency. Traveling often to Taiwan also means I must try one DTF at least once when there to experience the different menu options and gain a wider perspective of their products.
So what would I order? Generally it is hard to go past the signature pork ‘Xiao Long Bao’ soup dumplings, their beef brisket soup is a favourite and some lovely spinach with fresh garlic or baby pea shoots for a green dish. The spicy pork & prawn wontons in chilli oil are great too, and the green bean starter and the chilled marinated eggplant and the deep fried pork chop- all yum. The menu is large so there is lots of choice but photos of each dish guide you as well. Ooohh and the fried rice is pretty awesome too.
Apart from the wonderful food is the amazing hygiene standards DTF operate by. Most restaurants have a viewing window where customers can watch the DTF staff preparing the dumplings. The staff will all be wearing masks and caps plus you sometimes will see another running a lint roller over others shoulders as they stand stationery one by one. The restaurant staff even have a table cleaning procedure with a small box of neatly rolled cloths and a spray bottle -one cloth to wash and sanitise the table and another to wipe dry. It’s adherence to these systems that allow the consistency across so many restaurants and a system many other restaurants should adopt.
So if you have not tried a Din Tai Fung yet, please add it to your list. But remember, some DTF restaurants are so popular that long queues are common especially in Taipei and in Shanghai at peak hours, so go slightly before or after main meal times to minimise the wait.