Tuesday, June 26, 2012

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The original Din Tai Fung, Taipei

6/26/2012 Taiwan Explorer
Taiwan's most famous restaurant

There's almost nobody in Taiwan, that would not have heard of Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 at some point in his life - it's probably the most famous restaurant in the country as well as the most famous Taiwanese restaurant internationally (although Modern Toilet is catching up). For some reason, Din Tai Fung is extremely popular with Japanese tourists, visiting the original restaurant is one of the must-do things, when they come to Taipei. When my wife and I were waiting outside the restaurant on a breezy evening, there were quite many Japanese waiting with us. When you decide to go to the original Din Tai Fung, be sure you're fine with waiting 15 to 30 mins on a slow day and much more on a busy day. You will be given a number just like at the post office - it's definitely a very unique dining experience and it begins before you even enter the restaurant.

Why is Din Tai Fung so famous?

I admit, their food is good, it's probably great - but there are a lot of xiaolongbao restaurants in Taipei, that are just as good or even better. Of course that's a matter of personal preference, in this case my own. So why is Din Tai Fung so famous?

Where Din Tai Fung is way better than any other restaurant in Taiwan is their business sense: They think globally, they know that creating a narrative around their steamed buns is much better for business, than creating a unique dish (the latter can be often splitting the opinions). They did not need to create new dishes like it's commonly done in Taiwan, they just perfected what was already a very known Shanghainese specialty. And they added a narrative, a philosophy, a legend and rounded everything up with a perfect service. It's often reported, that they allow visitors to see how the buns are made - duh! So do many other xiaolongbao and jiaozi restaurants in Taiwan. Din Tai Fung is a media magnet, it's a brand that sells itself now. They can't make anything wrong now, they just have to continue doing the same thing - maintain a high level of food quality and service and the reporters, bloggers and travel agencies will do the rest.

The Experience

The interior of the original Din Tai Fung is 80s retro, very plain, but not intrusive.

The table is set with care and perfection, the staff is very polite.

Read my post about how to eat xiaolongbao>>

We had one of their famous dishes: The drunken chicken 醉雞. It was ok.

And then we finally got their little basket of freshly steamed buns - xiaolongbao.

I'm a big xiaolongbao gourmand, I was looking forward to this moment for quite a while.

And the verdict: They were tasty!

We also had some fried rice 炒飯, which was not my favorite dish.

Their sour and spicy soup 酸辣湯 was a disappointment to me. I'm a big fan of this soup and the way they make it just doesn't please my taste buds.

The verdict

The images and impressions shared here are related to my first visit to this famous restaurant and I have to admit, my expectations were very high, maybe too high. And I'm not a tourist anymore, I live in Taipei and Din Tai Fung is more of a tourist attraction than anything else. Most of the food is delicious, but price is a tad higher than in some other restaurants, that have similar or better food. I'd definitely recommend a visit to Din Tai Fung to any tourist, who is chasing after famous places, but if you want to be different from the rest, you better make a big circle around the crowd at Xinyi Road and head to the nearby Yongkang street - there's a plenty of good restaurants and cafes for you to discover.

English name: Din Tai Fung
Chinese name: 鼎泰豐
Romanization: Dǐng Tài Fōng
Address: 台北市信義路二段194號
Phone number: (02) 23 21 89 28
Opening hours: 10.00 - 21.00
Website: www.dintaifung.com.tw
Money per person: Around 250 NT$
Need to book: No.
Find location: Google maps
[My FOOD IN TAIPEI page][All photos by MKL, 2012]