Once heralded as one of the 10 top restaurants in the New York Times, Ding Tai Fung is found in many cities around the world, but curiously not in New York. In the early 2000s, Ding Tai Fung worked with China Airlines to create a week-long pop-up in Flushing, which drew rave reviews. Many thought it was a trial to test the New York market, but almost a decade has past and still no New York outpost.
What started as a cooking oil vendor in 1958, turned restaurant in the 80s, is today a global restaurant brand. Although the restaurant doesn’t really feature a distinguished chef, the meticulous team effort of crafting steamed dumplings is put in plain sight, as each restaurant features a glass encased kitchen where dozens of chefs knead, roll, stuff, and fold.
Sadly the nearest Din Tai Fung to New York is across the country in Seattle, but technically it’s still doable in a day-trip excursion.
Located in the scenic city of Bellevue, Din Tai Fung is housed within a multi-building shopping and office complex that houses your usual suspect of high end chains: Ruth’s Chris, P.F. Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory. Like the Taiwanese original, there’s no reservations, so seats are prepared at the door. Perhaps it’s the location, or that the fame of the brand has gone mainstream, but you’ll find at Din Tai Fung an ethnically diverse staff, a rarity for Chinese restaurants.
The menu is nearly identical to the Taiwanese original. While the selection of cooked foods is vast, most people come for the small cold plates, steamed entrees, and steamed desserts.
The standard soup dumplings had thin, evenly rolled skin, but the content wasn’t as soupy as expected. In fact the dumplings arrived slightly limp looking. Flavor of the filling was nice.
The vegetable and meat mixed dumplings are another personal favorite from my days in Taipei, and certainly did not disappoint. The mix of pork and a slightly bitter vegetable, diced thin, is a great flavor and textural combination.
The restaurant might be famous for chicken soup, but the beef stew soup (with or without noodles) was absolutely fantastic. Wonderful flavors of five spices and star anise.
For desserts, go back to the steamer. The steamed red-bean dumplings and the steamed taro dumplings are both silky smooth in texture, and just the perfect amount of sweet. Luckily a combination was available, allowing you to pickup half a steamer each.
All in all, Din Tai Fung offers an authentic dining experience in an meticulously clean and comfortable setting. Much is unchanged from Taiwan, which echoing the New York Times article mentioned early, is definitely a good thing.
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Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐
700 Bellevue Way NE Ste 280
Bellevue, WA 09034