While I love food, I’m not usually taken in with fancy, haute cuisine food. I like good food that resembles real food (ie not overly fussed with or overly expensive), and lots of it. So what am I doing going to a Michelin Star restaurant chain? And three times in two weeks…?! For the wonderfully non-fussy, non-pricey food, of course.
In December 2013 I went to Taiwan to visit relatives, and to eat. I had heard about Din Tai Fung, a Michelin Star chain of restaurants specialising in steamed dumplings and noodles. As my family come from northern China, this is the type of food I grew up eating, and love to eat. And as luck would have it, the Tienmu branch in Taipei was within walking distance of where I was staying for most of my trip. So I went there quite early on during my trip (the second day, in fact), just to try it out.
The first thing that I saw was the big glass window through which the kitchen was on display. Multiple chefs were busy creating steamed dumplings, each person manning their own station. Digital scales were used to measure both the wrapper skin and filling, to ensure consistency. The teamwork! The speed! The steam! A photo banner of famous diners lined the glass window (you can see Tom Cruise in my photo). I hurried inside like a good little food pilgrim arriving at mecca.
As we were there in the middle of the afternoon, with dinner plans already in place, we only ordered a few things. Top of the list were the truffle and pork xiao long bao, a type of steamed dumpling containing a tiny amount of soup. We also ordered chicken xiao long bao, and pork and vegetable dumplings (ie without soup).
The restaurant was large, comfortable and immaculately clean; the service was excellent. The food arrived fast, was super delicious and reasonably priced. It was all I could do to take a few shots with my camera in between mouthfuls. Joy! Satisfaction! Food nirvana! I left content in knowing that I would be back, soon, and free to order many other things to try.
The next outing was in Kaohsiung, where we went to visit my cousin and her husband. They took us to their local Din Tai Fung, where we had many things including beef noodle soup, la la noodles (with sesame and peanut sauce), and dessert xio long bao (with taro filling). The food was just as good as in Taipei, and I couldn’t have been happier. The la la noodles were my personal favourite.
Back in Taipei, we went to the Tienmu branch again. It was to be the last time we would go (I had previously already checked that, unfortunately, the branch in Thailand was in Bangkok, and we were going to Phuket), so we ordered our favourite dishes. I can only hope that eventually Din Tai Fung would open a branch here in Auckland (or I must go on holiday again). To sum up, this was one of many food highlights of my trip, I am so pleased I went there (three times!), I feel more than a little proud of this Taiwanese restaurant chain that has opened up in many other countries, not to mention having earned a Michelin star in the Hong Kong branch, and I highly recommend you to try it, if you can. Simple, fresh, non-fussy food, well priced and great service. What else can one ask for? Except a branch closer to home, I guess.