Din Tai Fung
Multiple locations across Asia and in Los Angeles; dintaifung.com.tw
Service: Long lines, but professional staff.
Setting: A little cold, a little factory like, but clean and comfortable.
Must-Haves: Xiao Long Bao
Cost: Varies by location, but pricey for dumplings.
What's the longest you've ever waited in line for a dumpling? If you've been to a Din Tai Fung, the Taiwan-based dumpling and noodle chain famous for their xiao long bao (steamed soup-filled dumplings), chances are you've waited at least an hour.
Waiting in line, you can't help but be excited at the prospect of tasting what promise to be the greatest soup dumplings you've ever had. The chain has an interesting history. The founder, Yang Bingyi originally made a living selling cooking oil. Some time in the early '80s, he decided to start selling xiao long bao from the shop in order to supplement their income. The little juicy buns soon started outselling the oil, and the shop was converted into an actual restaurant.
Since then, the chain has expanded to ten countries (mostly in Asia with a branch now in Los Angeles). The New York Times named them one of the 10 best restaurants in the world in 1993. Both branches in Hong Kong have been awarded Michelin-stars. In other words, this is no ordinary dumpling house.
But can it live up to its reputation? I finally got the chance to check it out when I was in Tokyo a couple months back.