Restaurant: Din Tai Fung
Food: Chinese/Shanghai Cuisine
Location: Various (see below)
Price: Expect to spend around TWD 300-500 per person
When it comes to food, Din Tai Fung has become synonymous with Taiwan. It is certainly the most well-known, having been named one of the top 10 gourmet restaurants in the world by the New York Times.
Any time you walk past a Din Tai Fung restaurant in Taipei during lunch or dinner, expect to see queues of Japanese tourists (mixed in with a few locals, of course) – so get in early to avoid the wait. The situation has somewhat improved with the development of more Din Tai Fung branches around Taipei (bringing the total up to four).
In fact, there are now dozens of Din Tai Fung restaurants around the world, including in Japan, China, Singapore, the United States and Australia, but as someone who has been to a couple of these overseas branches, I can tell you that they’re just not as good as the ‘real deal’ in Taipei. This explains why tourists still consider Din Tai Fung a ‘must-visit’ in Taipei despite there being branches in their own country.
(Click on ‘More…’ to read on and see the delicious food pics!)
We visited the Zhongxiao branch of Ding Tai Fung in Taipei, which is probably the least busy (the original Xinyi branch is always the busiest, the Fuxing branch is in a major department store, and the Tienmu branch is new).
Even before you step into the restaurant, you will be served by wired-up, professionally dressed waitresses outside, who will direct you to your seat if there is space, or give you a number if you have to wait.
Inside, Din Tai Fung is impeccably clean. The waitresses scatter around the restaurant floor looking to assist, while the men make the delicious food inside the see-through kitchen in white clothes, white hats and white face masks. If you have bags, they offer a portable, mini storage bag to be put by your side. If you have coats on the back of seats, they help you cover them up. If you run out of tea, they will top you up immediately without being asked. The place is truly a well-oiled machine, and I guess it’s all part of the Din Tai Fung experience.
And the food. No restaurant is immune from over-hyping, but in the case of Din Tai Fung it’s hard not to heap praise on it. The ‘must-try’ is of course the steamed pork dumplings, which are simply divine. The skin is extremely thin, but it never arrives at your table punctured. Have it plain or dip it in the ginger + soy/vinegar sauce. Either way, upon that first bite you’ll experience an explosion of soup bursting into your mouth, and it’s awesome.
However, I would recommend not getting too many steamed pork dumplings, because there are plenty of other delicious dishes. For instance, the steamed vegetable dumplings, the shrimp shu mai, the chilli oil wontons, the various noodles or the exquisite fried rice – you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Nothing is extravagant but everything is of the highest quality and taste.
Price-wise, Din Tai Fung is considered up the higher end for food of this type, but at TWD 300-500 a head, it’s still relatively cheap compared to any mid-tier restaurant in Western countries.
It’s hard not to give Din Tai Fung a 10 out of 10, whether it is just the food or the whole dining experience.
Check out Din Tai Fung’s English website, which introduces the legend of the restaurant, the food and the various store locations and opening hours (under the ‘Around the World’ tab).
Via the MRT, the easiest one to get to is the Fuxing branch. Just catch the blue line to Zhongxaio Fuxing and head into the Fuxing SOGO department store (not the Zhongxiao one). It’s on the B2 level.
To get to the Zhongxiao branch, catch the MRT on the blue line to Zhongxiao Dunhua. Get out at exit 3 and walk straight, past Ming Yao department store. At the next intersection, if you look to your right, you’ll see the red Din Tai Fung sign not very far down.
To get to the Tienmu branch, catch the MRT on the red line to Zhishan and check the signs at the station to get to the Tienmu SOGO department store. The Din Tai Fung is located on level B1.