Watching the Dumpling-Making
Kids can pass the time watching the dumplings getting made. Adults, too! It's a fun peek into the inner workings of the operation.
In the Din Tai Fung Kitchen
Here's a closer look inside the kitchen. The number of people making the xiao long bao is impressive, with the workers frequently consulting with each to check quality.
It's an endless process of rolling dough, filling it, and then careful crimping. Each dumpling must meet the very high Din Tai Fung standards.
Juicy Pork Dumplings ($9.50)
The basic xiao long bao (juicy pork dumplings) are the standard order at Din Tai Fung. They're rather small, so I feel like I could easily eat a basket of them as an appetizer. Just eat them quickly so that the soup inside is as hot as possible, preparing your dipping sauce (I pour black vinegar over the ginger slices, though some add soy sauce to that) ahead of time.
The Lack of Droop Means Not Enough Soup
The quality of the xiao long bao is fine, but the missing teardrop-like droop indicates that there's not enough soup inside.
Shrimp & Pork Shao Mai ($12.50 for 10 pieces), Soon to Be Available
As much as I like xiao long bao, my favorite dish at Din Tai Fung might be these shrimp and pork shao mai. When they become available at the Seattle location (several menu items are currently unavailable), you too can enjoy their juiciness.
Hot and Sour Soup ($7 for medium, pictured)
The hot and sour soup had all of the expected elements, but unfortunately, it wasn't particularly (spicy) hot or sour.
Shrimp and Pork Wonton with Spicy Sauce ($9.00)
In contrast to the delicate soup dumplings, the wontons are a little more rustic, with a "flow" of extra dough. The filling has good flavor, but as with the hot and sour soup, "spicy" is a disappointing misnomer. (Note: I'm aware that this is not Sichuan-style food, but I was hoping for just a little heat.)
Pork Chop Fried Rice ($8.25)
There are a few fried rice dishes, with pork chop perhaps the most popular option. The pork is incredibly tender, but also inexcusably bland. I was actually looking for a salt shaker. As for the fried rice, I hope that over time wok hay will add smoky flavor to it.
Shanghai Rice Cake with Chicken ($8.25)
The rice cake dish proved to be a similar story to the fried rice. I loved the chewiness of the discs, but overall the dish would benefit from a bit of seasoning to bring out more flavors. At this point of the meal, I starting thinking about MSG.
Seaweed and Bean Curd in Vinegar Dressing ($4.50)
In the main dining room of Din Tai Fung, you can find a cold case with several appetizers, like sliced cucumbers and soy noodle salad. This seaweed and bean curd is a good starter, though I'd enjoy the vinegar flavor as a starch-cutter throughout my meal.
Inside Din Tai Fung
Capacity at Seattle's Din Tai Fung is greater than the Bellevue location, which should help a bit with waits. Solo diners especially can also take advantage of bar seating, which is first-come, first-served.
The Line at the Door
If you have the ability to arrive before opening on a weekday, you can likely get a table without a wait. Otherwise, expect a line. Good news: You can go shopping and get notified when your table is ready.