Din Tai Fung
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- THE GOOD: as good as dim sum gets in Seattle.
- THE BAD: nothing compares to the real deal.
- THE NEIGHBORHOOD: University Village, Seattle.
Let me guess. You’ve had Dim Sum.
The Cantonese-style brunch, though dating centuries back as small bites of uniquely-prepared Chinese food served with tea, deems popular amongst coffee-obsessed Seattlites of today. Adding to its notoriety, the city’s growing Asian influence, and hence Din Tai Fung’s success. Of course, excellence in products and service helped as well.
Multiple disappointments of dim sum in Seattle caused initial skepticism about the chain.
Then a long wait–one hour on a Sunday afternoon–under a covered area furnished with only a few benches. Curing boredom was a crowded Starbucks downstairs or U Village’s upscale stores. Both of which we forego.
Situation looked discouraging, but at least parking’s sufficient.
The restaurant’s newly-constructed building attaches to a multi-level garage. It gets conjested on weekends but still has availability. Just keep driving up.
The long wait concluded with well-groomed staff ushering us past crowded rooms.
Each table bustled with large parties, many of them toting children.
A family-friendly place–we like that!
Not that you need help with ordering, but just in case…
English-and-Chinese menus provide description and images. If you require further assistance, staff articulates the language of dim sum fluently.
A grim day in Seattle.
But floor-to-ceiling windows granted natural light. Restaurant space has been partitioned for functional use: an array of private sections surround a grand dining room, bar sits next to the entrance, and private dining situates in the back.
East-meets-West decor accentuate flavor in ambiance.
Bamboo steamers mounted on a slate-colored wall. Lanterns and metal pipes hung from the ceiling. Looming ever-so-obviously an industrial-and-Asian combination.
In other words: oh-so-NEW-Seattle.
Cucumber salad (4.75) arrived first.
Bite-sized slices drizzled with sesame oil and chili sauce. A spicy kick and a crunch jolted us, but only in pleasantry.
Seattleites obsess about “rainy day food.”
Pho and chowder and such. My beef noodle soup (9.50), fittingly in the same category, tasted like Grandma’s version from childhood in Shanghai: same hand-pulled noodle, same ginger-soy flavor, and the same way meat fell effortlessly off of the bone.
Excuse my nostalgia, but the noodle soup comforted me just like Grandma did.
Avoid Shanghai rice cake if you’re gluten-intolerant.
Otherwise, Chicken Spinach Shanghai Rice Cake (9.50) is one to try: tender poultry, fresh spinach and gooey rice cake sautéed in just the right amount of seasoning.
We shouldn’t have inhaled the entire dish. Oh well!
The Xiao Long Bao I know of came from a hole-in-the-wall, not a fancy restaurant.
The hole was so shallow that only one industrial-sized steamer fit, leaving customers lining outside, down the alley, and around the block. A dozen dumplings cost, at the time, less than one American dollar.
Kudos to Din Tai Fung for even attempting Shanghai’s finest street food. Each perfectly-wrapped dumpling encapsulated ample amounts of soup. Dipped in ginger-y vinegar, they tasted like heaven-on-chopstix.
Gentle reminder: the traditional way of consuming xiao long boa is to suck the soup first, then chew the rest.
(Priced at 12.50.)
Nothing stood out on Din Tai Fung’s menu.
However, our experience was delightful. You can’t compare to the real deal, but the food did remind me of home, and that’s pretty good for dim sum in Seattle.
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Din Tai Fung
University Village Shopping Center
2621 NE 46th St
Seattle, WA 98105