I finally got to try DinTaiFung, which is famous throughout the land for their Xiao Long Bao (XLB) also known as Shanghai Dumplings or more directly, soup dumplings. We were up in Seattle visiting Mr. K’s niece who just started school near Tacoma and I was pretty adamant that we had to go to DTF once I heard there was one nearby (thx MF). The restaurant is an international chain with humble beginnings that began in Taiwan 40 years ago, where the founder Bingyi Yang began to supplement his meager income as a cooking oil merchant by selling dumplings. They dedicated half of their shop over to making and selling steamed dumplings which over time captured the stomachs of customers. The Hong Kong location was awarded a Michelin star in 2011, which has added fuel to the unquenchable flame of desire that burns for devotees of dumplings, as evidenced by long lines and up to 2 hour waits during peak times! At the front of the restaurant you can watch teams of dumpling chefs hard at work, one rolls out the dough into little circles that another places a scoop of filling on, which the others masterfully fold into shape.
At the front desk we were greeted by a smiling young woman who told us that it would be about 25 minutes before we would get a table. She took my phone number and said she would text me when a table was available. I had barely walked outside and onto a nearby pedestrian overpass when I got the text summoning us back. She led through the sleek modern dining room to a glass enclosed room in the back with views of tall skyscrapers all around.
The menu has a lot of options for dumplings, noodles, soups and rice dishes which made it hard to decide. Of course we had to order soup dumplings, so we began with an order of the Juicy Pork and Crab Dumplings, the thin skins of the xiao long bao are pinched at the top which creates a pointed circular swirl of pleats forming a crown. They are served with bottles of soy sauce, dark vinegar and we each had a small plate of finely shredded fresh ginger, and of course, Mr. K asked for some chili sauce too.
With much care we lifted the delicate dumplings from the bamboo steamers onto our soup spoons and topped them with some ginger, soy, vinegar and chili oil and slurped them down. They were incendiarily hot so we had to puff air into our mouths waving our hands to cool off as our neighbors smiled in sympathy. Must be the drill… So freaking good.
We really enjoyed the Shrimp and Pork Dumplings in Spicy Sauce, which were large and meaty, the wrappers were tender but chewy and absorbed the delectable sauce. Speaking of which, the spices in the sauce were different from the chili oil, pungent and mysterious and exhilarating on our tastebuds.
We needed some vegetables and chose Cucumber with spicy chili oil, garlic and hot pepper. They seemed almost kimchi like in flavor and were lightly blanched, adding a very refreshing element to our meal.
I had a craving for the pan crisped texture of Potstickers and placed my order without a clue as to what to expect. The potstickers of DinTaiFung were beyond anything I had experienced before, they were thin skinned like Japanese gyoza and the entire serving was connected with a crisp and lacy crust that easily pulled apart and added an awesome crunch.
They were served with a thick sauce that was sweet and hoisin-y and swirled with sriracha chili sauce. It was a quite different potsticker experience from anything I’d had before and I’m feeling a little obsessed with them still…
My friend Ben recommended the Noodles with Pork and Pickled Vegetables, which was light and refreshing and full of great flavors that contrasted nicely with the other spicy dishes.
Mr. K wanted something plain, so we had a bowl of Vegetable Fried Rice. The rice was well seasoned, chewy and soothing like a mother’s caress.
We were all delighted with the delicious meal, Mr. K proclaimed it to be his favorite of our trip and I have become a rabid fan of their potstickers (even more so than for the soup dumplings, which were delicious but not life changing… ) I read that their strength is in the consistency of their product and customer service, which makes me glad to know that I can count on finding those potstickers one day soon.