Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Post: Din Tai Fung, an International Favorite

Our Brazilian friends took a trip to a local favorite and offered to write a guest post! Without further ado:


I discovered Din Tai Fung almost by accident. I went to Burlington Coat Factory to buy a real coat (because, being a Brazillian, I never needed one in my life before). It was a Sunday. I have to confess, Sunday for me is the day to be lazy (more than the usual). So I usually finish my Sunday breakfast by noon. By the time I got out of Burlington it was 4PM, which on Sundays means lunch time, and me and my husband were starving. So I got my phone, started Google maps and entered “restaurant”. Very nearby there was this Din Tai Fung featuring 26 on ZAGAT (which later I discovered meant nearly perfection, which they surely deserve). So we decided to give it a try. The front desk of the restaurant was crowded (4PM of Sunday?!), but needing only a table for two, we were in in less than 5 minutes. 


Din Tai Fung specialty are the dumplings, but they also serve fried rice, noodle soups and many different options of vegetables (by the way, they serve more than 20 different vegetarian dishes). They welcome every guest with a complimentary kettle of hot Jasmin Tea, which is great because not only it’s one of my favorites and it’s free, but also because they don’t have many options to the annoying ones that don’t drink soda (like myself). So I skipped all beverages and just kept sipping happily at my Jasmin Tea. We ordered the Pork and Shrimp Shao Mai (because we saw it on the neighboring table), the Pork Dumpling and the Shrimp Fried Rice.


Ok, now I’ll try to describe the food. It’s not going to be easy, but I’ll try to avoid repeating letters to show emphasis (it was amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazzziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnngg!!!! Ok, just this time).


 Pork and Shrimp Shao Mai



The Pork Shao Mai is a teeny tiny purse made of very thin, very light and translucent dough, filled with pork and with a shrimp on the top. You might think pork and shrimp is a very unusual combination (I also thought at first), but believe me, it’s great. The pork is very juicy and well-seasoned, and the shrimp, well, you got be a pretty lousy cook to ruin shrimp in my opinion, so it was very good. The Pork Dumpling is made of the same thin, light and translucent dough, but instead of looking like a teeny tiny purse it looks like a wonton. The pork dumpling is filled with the same well-seasoned pork but with a plus! It has a wonderful broth on the inside that is as delicious as is hot, so be careful not to burn your mouth like I did (it was worth it, my mouth is full of water just from remembering the broth, burning aside). Both the Shao Mai and the dumpling are steamed, which make then even lighter. The fried rice was very oily in a good way (yes, I think that’s possible), it was very light, the shrimp was even better than on the Shao Mai, cooked to perfection, and it had plenty of eggs and green onions on it, so to summarize, great! 

You might think that all this goodness would come at a high price, but it didn’t. Altogether, it came to less than 35 dollars (20% gratuity included). I made a mental note to myself to come back to Din Tai Fung whenever possible.


Then last month, there I was again, on a lazy Sunday, 4PM, in Arcadia, hungry. We decided to give it a try. The hostess asked us to go to the back of the building, that we could get a table there without any wait! It sounded suspicious, but the pork dumpling broth memory was too strong. So we went all the way around the building, and found another Din Tai Fung! And they had a table for us! No wait! Again!


Apparently they got sick of having 2 hour wait lines all day and bought a new place that is right in the back of the original restaurant (and I suspect they share the same kitchen). The new place is very beautiful and big (bigger than the original restaurant), but was crowded either way (by the time we left that wait “forecast” was 45 minutes). So I guess they will have to buy more areas soon.


Pork and Vegetable Dumplings 



This time we decided to order the Pork and Shrimp Shao Mai, the fried rice and the Pork and Veggie dumpling. They were great once again. The Pork and Veggie dumpling also have the same great hot broth inside (yep, I got burned again), but instead of being filled with juicy pork it was filled with juicy pork mixed with some veggies (who knew?).


The bill was once again 35 dollars (no dessert), fair price for a meal that is supposed to keep two people feed until late Sunday night (when I usually make a hot chocolate and call it a day).



By the way, another great advice I have for you is to stop at the JJ Bakery that is just across from the “original” Din Tai Fung. It’s a Japanese bakery with all kinds of different, fresh and delicious pastries and breads. Ask for the Japanese Cream Puff, a light, airy pastry filled with a rich cream, almost non-sweet (it seems that all Japanese candies are very low in sweetness, but they manage to make it delicious either way). Enjoy with your hot chocolate later!


So, if you want to know the secret to get a table in Din Tai Fung, this is it: be lazy! Go on a Sunday, midafternoon, take just your loved one, have one delicious meal, and feel filled until 9 PM!

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