Chinese

Din Tai Fung, Melbourne

6/20/2015 10:33:00 AM

Din Tai Fung, Emporium

I was really excited when I heard that international dumpling superstars Din Tai Fung were opening a restaurant in Melbourne. Right in the centre of the city, too, in the Emporium shopping centre. I was salivating over the prospect of sneaky lunch break xiao long baos! However, knowing how much Melbournians love the next big thing, I was prepared to wait until the inevitable queues subsided before trying it out myself. So you can understand how thrilled I was to be invited to an intimate launch dinner during their first week of opening!

Din Tai Fung
Level 4, Tenancy M002
Emporium Melbourne
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9654-1876
Website

Melbourne's Din Tai Fung is located on level four of Emporium (take the escalators from the level three food court, or the external lifts from the corner of Caledonian Lane and Little Bourke Street), and is gigantic. I'm told it will seat up to 235 diners, but as they are still in their early days of operation (less than a week so far!), the owners haven't filled the restaurant to capacity with tables yet - more will come as the team gets more confident and settles in to the new location.

Din Tai Fung, Emporium

You can watch the dumplings being made in the large glass-walled kitchen near the entrance. I was super-impressed by the precision in the kitchen. With all the protective gear, it almost looked like a cleanroom, where one might, say, conduct scientific research or build satellites.

Portioning and rolling out the dough

Measuring the filling and folding the XLBs

Steamer!

Weighing out black truffles for the signature black truffle xiao long bao

Check out these awesome bag holders and seat covers - keeping your bags and coats free from dumpling-soup stains. Love it.

Bag rests and seat covers!

For this dinner, our small group of bloggers ate with Dendy and Shin, the husband and wife team who own and operate all the Din Tai Fung outlets across Indonesia and Australia. We were treated to a range of items across the menu, showing off Din Tai Fung's speciality items as well as Dendy and Shin's favourites.

Drinks

Lychee mint freeze - $8.80

I'm not generally the type to order big sugary drinks, but I really enjoyed the lychee and mint freeze - made with fresh mint, it was refreshing without being too sweet.

Yuzu and peach freeze - $8.80

Also delicious was the yuzu and peach freeze, which had a unique citrussy kick from the yuzu.


Appetisers

Cucumber salad in vinaigrette dressing - $6.80

I wouldn't think to order cucumber salad myself, but these were surprisingly addictive and we kept going back for more.

Mango shrimp roll

The mango shrimp rolls are, I'm told, exclusive to Australian Din Tai Fung - a dish created to take advantage of the great mangos we have in Australia.

Shrimp and pork wonton with tangy sauce - $10.80

The shrimp and pork wonton were served in a sauce of chilli oil and ground Sichuan peppercorns - really moreish.


Vegetables and Hot Dishes

Crispy fried chicken with chilli - $16.80

I can never say no to fried chicken, and the crispy fried chicken with chilli was a hit. The boneless chicken pieces were juicy and had a good warmth from the chilli, without being overpoweringly spicy. Sandra declared this the best Chinese fried chicken she's had! (And believe me, we've eaten a lot!)

Green bean with minced pork - $15.80

The green beans were nice, but not to my personal taste - these were on the sweet side, and I prefer the aggressively salty kind, liberally dusted with Sichuan pepper.


Steamed Dumplings

Shrimp and pork shao mai - $10.80 (4 pcs)

Din Tai Fung's shao mai (Shanghai-style) looked very different from the Cantonese siu mai that I normally get at yum cha. I don't actually like yum cha siu mai, finding them a bit rubbery, but these shao mai were awesome! Each shao mai was topped with a generous piece of prawn, the skin was soft and thin, and the filling underneath had pork and a little soup. Really great!

Vegetarian jiao ze - $10.80 (6 pcs)

Sometimes vegetarian dumplings can be a disappointment, all dough and bland filling, but these vegetarian jiao ze were very impressive. Inside the delicate skin (look at all those folds!) was a mixture of Shanghai spinach, vermicelli, black fungus and tofu. The amount of filling was generous and the flavours were distinct.

Xiao long bao - $10.80 (6 pcs)

And what can I say about the xiao long bao? These were definitely my favourite dish of the night. They looked perfect, and despite the super delicate skin, none of them broke on the way from the steamer, to my spoon and then to my mouth. Yay! Definitely want to go back for more!

Super delicate skin!

Din Tai Fung is also offering a special black truffle xiao long bao - each dumpling has a little slice of black truffle in it, and it is recommended that you eat these without soy or vinegar so that you can get the truffle flavour. 

Black truffle xiao long bao - $4.50 each

These have quite a strong aroma and flavour - you definitely taste the truffle! They are a novelty, but a very tasty one.

Mmm... truffle


Fried Rice

Pork chop served with fried medium grain rice - $16.80

This dish was one of Winston's favourites from his visits to Sydney's Din Tai Fungs, and I can see why. The boneless pork chop was tender and flavourful, and eggy fried rice is perfect comfort food. 


Noodle

Cha jiang noodle with minced pork - $13.80

These cha jiang noodles were another homestyle, comforting dish, consisting of wheat noodles topped with a sauce of tofu, pork, beans and (I believe) fermented soy bean paste. The noodles were cooked quite firm, which I really liked, and the whole dish was presented quite elegantly. Come to think of it, both this dish and the fried rice were good examples of comfort food done in a refined way - they looked nice, had delicate flavours and weren't greasy or heavy at all. I'd be keen to go back and try Din Tai Fung's take on one of my favourites, dan dan mien!


Desserts

Mango pudding

I loved the mango pudding! This version had generous chunks of fruit throughout the pudding and was really delicious. They also came with little pots of evaporated milk in case we wanted to add it. (I always want evaporated milk!)

And then, out came two gargantuan crushed-ice dessert mountains!

Triple mango crushed ice (large)

Triple strawberry crushed ice (large)

They were huge, and are meant to serve five to six people. From the way they looked, I thought they'd be really sweet, but they were actually very light - the base is crushed ice, and even with the syrup, fresh fruit, evaporated milk and ice-cream, the overall effect is quite refreshing. These make a nice dessert after a big meal of dumplings! (And they do come in smaller sizes too).

Taro gelato - $4.50 per scoop
Golden taro bread - $6.80 (two rolls)

I'm not usually a taro person (red bean and green tea for the win!), but I loved this dessert, and it was actually my favourite out of all the desserts we tried. The taro gelato was super light and creamy, and the golden taro bread was a definite winner. The filling was made of smooth mashed taro, which was encased in white bread, with each end dipped in sesame seeds and then deep fried. Deep fried! The gelato and the golden taro bread are sold separately, but I would suggest ordering them together, because the combination is so good!

We really enjoyed this dinner - not only was it a great chance to try a large range of different dishes, but it was also great to catch up with some awesome blogger peeps, which is always fun, and to meet the lovely owners of Din Tai Fung.

Of course, the culinary highlight for me was those incredible xiao long bao. Rest assured, I will be back for you! And the golden taro bread... and the crispy fried chicken... 

Sarah and Sandra dined as guests of Din Tai Fung, with thanks to Dendy and Shin!

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3 comments

  1. I love their dumplings! They are so good and pretty much everything that we've ordered there is delish. I can't believe it took so long for Melbourne to get one though!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ooh you can't beat a good xlb! I always end up staring like a little kid into the prep kitchen here. Their speed and precision is phenomenal.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We went in Seattle and had a great lunch - really wish it was easier to find good dumplings here!

    ReplyDelete

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