Din Tai Fung is a chain from Taiwan that is legendary for their xiao long bao or soup dumplings. They currently operate over 100 locations worldwide and finally, finally opened a branch in the Bay Area last May. From the beginning, the lines to get in were so epic (3 hours) that the chain began to take reservations for the first time ever at this location only. Demand was so high that people were selling their reservations on Craigslist for $50! Big note: according to the website, starting March 1 they will no longer be taking reservations. There is an exhibition kitchen near the entrance where masked staff crank out hundreds of dumplings by hand. It is mesmerizing to watch the assembly line expertly roll out the dough, fill and then fold them up closed with delicate pleats so quickly and efficiently
They won’t seat you until the entire party is present and the fine print of the reservation states that they will only hold the table for 15 minutes… so when when my friends texted that they were running late I began to worry… but the staff was very chill about the whole thing and we were seated as soon as everyone was present and accounted for. While we were waiting we watched the staff in their endless process of rolling dough, filling it, and then carefully folding and pleating them closed. Below they are adding a slice of black truffle into each dumpling!
Once inside, it’s very sleek and modern in the main dining room and we are surprised to find the staff to be friendly and very professional – totally not what we’re used to in an Asian restaurant!
Are you familiar with XLB soup dumplings? Din Tai Fung’s signature dish begins with juicy meat filling wrapped in a delicate skin, which is then pleated with a minimum of 18 exquisite folds, twisted at the top and steamed. What makes them so wonderful is the rich soup broth that develops within the dumpling when they are steamed at a certain temperature. A spoon is provided for you to slurp them up in so you don’t miss any of the gorgeous broth, and they are just heavenly when topped with a splash of the black vinegar and a few delicate strands of fresh ginger. The spoon is the safest way to proceed as the broth can be really hot!
We began with an order of the Truffle and Pork Xiao Long Bao in which a slice of black truffle has been tucked into the luscious pork filling infusing it with its pungent earthy aroma. This arrived first, before anything else so our tastebuds were primed and ready to be totally and completely wowed, and we agreed that it was worth the outrageous cost of $4 a dumpling.
This is the Crab and pork Xiao Long Bao, which has a tiny edible golden crab at the bottom of the steamer to identify it to both servers and eaters. Apparently crab fat is added to the pork, but I could barely taste it… pork or crab, they are all so delicious!
The Shrimp and pork shao mai had an amusingly lopsided look to them, but were so graceful when compared with the usual squat presentation. The wraps on all of the dumplings was thin so that you really can taste the complex flavors of the filling.
The spicy cucumber salad comes drizzled with hot chili oil is a refreshing palette cleanser and is also a signature dish that goes well with everything. You have to get this!
The Sauteed string beans with garlic are also a requirement, they are lightly blistered and well seasoned on the exterior, tender and crisp on the inside. This dish brings a wonderful fresh vivacity to the table and I recommend this one too.
Braised beef noodle soup is a Taiwanese specialty and not to be missed. The bowl is filled with succulent pieces of juicy meat with chewy noodles served in a bowl full of rich flavorful soup that we spooned into small cups. The soup was rich and flavorful, very satisfying like a big delicious hug.
Steamed glutinous sticky rice filled with pork and shrimp and infused with a toffee colored glaze that is sweet and savory, liberated from its fragrant lotus leaf wrap.
P wanted to order the steamed barbecue pork bun, which had a rich savory filling of tender chunks of pork that he ate with great relish.
The shrimp and pork wontons in spicy garlicky sauce set our lips a tingle and really fired up the tastebuds.
My favorite has to be the Shrimp and pork potstickers, because I love the extra crispy base that forms a rectangle underneath the dumplings. The dumplings are made with a wheat-based wrapper that are first steamed then pan fried to maximize the textural difference between the tender, steamed tops, and the golden brown, crisp, bottoms which are surrounded with a lacy thin crisp skin. A mystery how they are made, but I love a good mystery…
We shared an order of Kimchee and pork dumplings which had an extra spicy and garlicy flavor that piqued our flagging tastebuds.
I feel that we barely scratched the surface of all that Din Tai Fung has to offer, the menu is huge and includes fried noodles and rice cakes, fried rice, fried rice topped with pork chop, soups, and then there are sweet bean or chocolate filled dumplings for dessert. We are excited to have a local branch and definitely plan to go back soon.
Din Tai Fung at Westfield Valley Fair Mall, 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95050
Monday – Friday: 11AM – 9:30 PM
Saturday: 10AM – 9:30 PM
Sunday: 10AM – 9PM
note that the restaurant will be moving to walk-ins only and will no longer be taking reservations starting 3/1/2017