Much has been written about the famous Din Tai Fung. It is famous having begun in Taiwan, having a long presence in Sydney, and now recently taking up residence at the top of Melbourne’s most beautiful shopping centre, Emporium.
It’s not dirt cheap, but at these prices pretty much anyone can have a try, and the reaction is intriguing to me. My modus operandi, besides using weird words that no-one understands, is to not look at reviews in-depth about restaurants until I’ve tried them, which is an impossible task with DTF given the huge amount of press.
What I learned in my reading is there are some signature dumplings I need to try, that you have to wait a short time to get a table, and that there are a lot of people who have taken issue with DTF, leading to a Zomato score of a lowly 3.0 out of 5. To give an idea of why that is not ideal, there is a filter to hide places under 3.5!
However, when you look at the reviews only by bloggers, there is an entirely different story of 4.5s and 5s out of 5. Why is this the case? I’m not absolutely sure but it was front of mind as we started to eat our way through several types of dumplings following a leisurely stroll into the city.
My first thought is there is a cost aspect where DTF is far more expensive than the average dumpling place. When you have such rich and complex flavours bursting through the crab roe and pork soup dumpling, with a wrapper screaming perfection, the $17 for 6 of them doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But it isn’t cheap.
Again, the prawn and pork shao mai are carefully formed, with delectable broth combining with the firm texture of the wrapper making a meal that is revered by most, for good reason. Sure, you do not need a dozen chefs in a relatively spacious kitchen, with years of experience, to make a dumpling that is comforting and full of flavour, but you do need that if you want something just that bit more special. The same goes for most food. Teenagers can cook you a burger at Macca’s, so why would anyone pay extra for Huxtaburger, or an even more expensive burger?
While I need to try a few more places, in my experience, the only dumpling house in the city that can match what we are eating is HuTong, which has always been exceptional, especially for their shao long bao soup dumplings. The ones we tried at DTF are just as gorgeous.
The pork buns are very good, but not at the level of the dumplings. The surprise though was the simplicity, good level of sweetness, and sound technique in the reasonably priced desserts of mango pudding with fresh mango, and black sesame ice cream. I strongly suggest leaving room!