I’m a little behind the times, but I finally headed down to emporium to check out Din Tai Fung, one of two world famous dumpling restaurants now in residence in Melbourne (the other being Tim Ho Wan).
This is the kind of restaurant that I typically approach with a mixture of excitement and reserve, because it can be so easily over-hyped. Remembering of course, that the basic pork + vegetable or pork + prawn dumpling is hardly a gourmet food in and of itself, the elements of quality are subtle. I wasn’t disappointed.
I was surprised by how large the restaurant was inside! Almost the size of the main food court on it’s own, but hidden away so you don’t realise the extent until you’re about half way in. We ordered the Xiao Long Bao – a personal favourite, the legendary soup dumpling, which can often let you down – spicy wontons on dry noodles, beans with mince pork, steamed pork bun, assorted mini dessert buns (taro, red bean and sesame) and the golden lava mochi balls.
First off I have to say that every dish was beautifully presented. That tender roll of noodles sitting like a pillow under the perfect row of wontons was probably one of the most visually pleasing noodle dishes I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Don’t be alarmed by the intense drenching of chili if you are not the biggest hot head around – it is spicy, but not brain-blowingly so, and the liberal use of green herbs keeps the flavour fresh and light. The noodles too are deliciously fresh, chewy but not sticky. The same applies to the wonton and dumpling wrappers.
While I don’t have a photo, I assure you that the dumplings were equally attractive, laid out in perfectly even spacing within the steamer basket. It’s a sign of an excellent Xiao Long Bao when you can lift it from the paper without breaking the skin and spilling the soup, and yet without the dumpling also being overly greasy. The soup inside was fresh and sweet, and I’m already dreaming of going back for more. Green beans with mince are another favourite of mine, and also great here, though perhaps a little on the sweet side, and I did catch a few errant shrimp which I wasn’t expecting.
Moving on to the dessert and I highly recommend the golden lava dumplings. Filled with a sweet but not overly sweet custard, it was a lovely change of texture to the other sweet desserts which were steamed bread buns with paste fillings.
As a side note, the Italian green apple soda, which sounds like it might be a refreshing and somewhat natural drink, is actually a fluorescent green abomination (but tasty if you’re into green apple candy).
All in all, I definitely recommend checking out Din Tai Fung if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, and be sure to order the Xiao Long Bao as they are the best I’ve had in Melbourne by far.