>> Monday, October 15, 2012
This is the first post in the Summer in the Pacific Northwest Series, which is sort of being run concurrently with the Oh Canada Series (partly due to some overlap).
I guess you could say I'm on a mission.
It's not a difficult mission, really. I'm just trying to eat at every Din Tai Fung in the world, that's all. I've made reasonably progress to date. I visited the original one in Taipei, of course, as well as the one in Los Angeles opened by the family's son. There are franchises around the world, and I've gone to both the ones in Beijing and Shanghai. Heck, I've even been tricked and gone to a knock-off one in Toronto.
And then they finally decided to open a second location in the U.S. I prayed that they would choose the East Coast (why not? There is already so much good Chinese food out west!). Alas, they decided to open in Bellevue, just outside of Seattle.
Disheartened, I really had no idea when I would be able to go.
As it turned out, Bryan's cousin decided to get married in Seattle. Better yet, his aunt (with whom we stayed) actually lives in Bellevue.
It's not hard to guess where I wanted to go for dinner.
Unlike some of the older Din Tai Fung locations (like the original one in Taiwan or even the original one in Los Angeles), this one is prettier and "swankier" inside, with hard wood floors, cute hanging lights, and prettier dishware. It reminded me more of the slightly more upscale ones in Beijing and Shanghai (where Din Tai Fung is regarded as a really pricey restaurant).
Your food comes out on prettier, slightly more stylish dishware. The marinated cucumbers, always a refreshing starter, were great.
The spicy wontons were average and probably worth skipping. After all, if you're coming to Din Tai Fung, you should really be getting their xiao long baos!
Speaking of which, we ordered several dozens of the dumplings. These were solid, definitely serviceable, but we noticed a quality difference between the ones here and both the ones in California (slightly better) and Asia (noticeably better).
The skins aren't supposed to break, but I think we had one or two break on us.
But really, I'm arguably splitting hairs here. The dumplings were still delicious and very, very enjoyable. The soupy pork filling is still very flavorful and satisfying, and people still gobbled it up. If this exact restaurant opened up in Boston, I would still go at least once a week!
Sauteed Green Beans
Other non-dumpling side dishes, such as the stir fried green beans, were all fine. It's nice that they have a variety of offerings on their menu. After all, if you're a local, you may not feel like eating xiao long baos all the time.
Stir Fried Rice Cakes (chao nian gao)
Of course, I think Bryan would differ. He's pretty particular about what he will eat when he's at Din Tai Fung. In short, he only eats the crab roe xiao long baos. He thinks everything else is a "waste of stomach space."
Most people aren't like Bryan, so I still think it's nice that they have a variety of dishes. We found most of their dishes, such as the stir fried rice cakes (two photos above) and the wonton soup (above) to be pretty tasty. I would definitely consider ordering a bigger variety if I lived close by and came every week.
However, if I'm only coming to visit it as a destination restaurant, I would focus mostly on the dumplings, which are still their main specialty.
Definitely try the dessert dumplings if you've never had it before. My personal favorite (by far) is the taro dumpling. Often I'll eat the same number of taro dumplings as normal pork ones! Black sesame is also pretty good. We did not try the red bean one here, but we've noticed a difference in sweetness and texture between the Los Angeles and Taiwan ones, so I can't recommend one from a particular restaurant unless if I've tried it, and we didn't try it here.
Overall, I am still very, very jealous of all you people that live in the Seattle area. You are so lucky that Din Tai Fung picked another West Coast city in which to open their second restaurant.
This Din Tai Fung is very popular, just like every other Din Tai Fung in the world. We arrived early, around 5:30PM, so we did not wait in line. By the time we left, however, the line was super long. The restaurant is inside of a mall, so if you do have to wait a long time, I guess there's at least stuff you can browse while you wait?
I still hope that someday, they will come to the East Coast. The odds of Boston may seem low, but then they picked Bellevue over San Francisco, so we can always dream, right?
Din Tai Fung
700 Bellevue Way NE Ste 280
Bellevue, WA 98004