I vaguely remember trying out the original Din Tai Fung in Taiwan. Taiwan has tons of many great food spots that serve xiao long bao, and indeed Din Tai Fung might be the most “world famous” among them. As for the best? Well, that word doesn’t get thrown around lightly around here. When Din Tai Fung opened its doors on Philippine soil, I did make a mental note of paying a visit. It was impossible to miss one of the great many photos of their xia long bao’s floating around my social network feeds. It took me this long.
Just like many of the other international brands that have set up shop in the PH, Din Tai Fung was met with an immense amount of hype. I react differently to hype. I almost always hold off until the excitement has died down before trying it out. I just like to see if people would still line up for it after that initial wave of clamor.
When we arrived at Din Tai Fung in BGC, there was a line outside. That was good sign for me, since this restaurant has been on the local scene for a while. If people are still willing to wait then it must mean they’re doing something right. Arriving at 11-plus, we got listed and had to wait maybe 15 to 20 minutes to get seated. That’s not so bad considering how many of us were waiting outside. They had set up a very high tech numbering system to ensure smooth transition between customers who were coming and going.
I was surprised by how spacious the restaurant was when we finally went in. Even in a restaurant as big as this we had to wait. My favorite part about the restaurant was without a doubt this glass kitchen. I always love seeing cooks and chefs in action.
There’s really nothing negative I can say about the service, because the staff moved fast and were pretty attentive to our needs. Even before we finished selecting our orders (which you can do while waiting outside, by the way) there were waitresses offering us some appetizers already. We tried some out of curiosity, and well, you’ll have to read on to find out my thoughts.
Taiwanese Kao Fu / Stewed Spongy Gluten (Php 245)
Appetizer of braised wheat gluten served cold with shrooms, strips of bamboo, and edamame
I was really surprised that this cost so much for something so tiny. Growing up in a Chinese household, I eat this kind of stuff all the time. The wheat gluten here popped with flavor in every bite, exactly how I expected it to. While this was delicious, it didn’t taste too different from ones I’ve had before.
Din Tai Fung House Special (Php 155) 🌟
Another cold appetizer made up of glass noodles, bean curd, and seaweed, coated in a special sauce.
Now this I can get behind! I loved the tanginess that dances alongside the earthy sesame oil-taste of the vinaigrette they used to flavor this. I think that some people probably will find this dish weird, but eating seaweed like this is so normal to me. This might just be my new favorite way to eat seaweed, in fact.
House Special Spicy Jellyfish (Php 245)
Always one of my favorite appetizers in a Chinese resto. I always try to fish out the leftovers from the giant plate of cold cuts whenever I get the chance, especially when they’re coated in a spicy sauce. That’s how much I like this stuff. (I don’t think there’s anyone in my family who doesn’t lol.) Din Tai Fung’s jellyfish looks very fresh, with a nice color and crunch. The sauce was nice as well with just the right touch of spicy.
Pork Xiao Long Bao (Php 315 for 10 pieces) 🌟
Now we get to the main event. Can we just take a moment and appreciate the “craftsmanship” of these xia long bao? They look just perfect. You can see that the skin of the dumpling is just thick enough to hold everything together and thin enough to give you a glimpse of the soup that lies inside. The proper way of eating this is to pop it open and pour the soup onto your soup spoon, drinking it before dipping the rest of the dumpling and devouring.
I thought Din Tai Fung’s classic xiao long bao was delicious, but certainly it was not the best I have eaten. There is a generous amount of soup and a pretty good amount of meat as well. The flavor is nice and not overwhelming. It’s a solid xia long bao and one that will have you asking for seconds.
Here’s a little random question: Have any of you tried eating the entire xiao long bao and letting the soup pop inside your mouth? I have this habit of letting the dumplings cool a moment before eating the entire thing, because I enjoy it more that way. I feel like the flavors are more pronounced when they explode in my mouth. Wala lang. Just being completely unceremonious with the way I eat my xia long bao.
Crab Roe and Pork Xiao Long Bao (Php 565 for 10 pieces)
That little cut-out crab is SUPER CUTE. I love how Din Tai Fung labels their xiao long bao! So this particular xiao long bao is no doubt the richer between the two we ordered. Its soup is thicker, more flavorful, and also more oily than the original/pork one.
I prefer the classic over this, but I can’t say this was bad. My brothers actually prefer this one over the other. Maybe I would’ve liked this better if I had just popped it all in my mouth?
Crispy Vegetarian Mushroom Wontons (Php 180 for 6 pieces)
This crunchy wanton-wrapped vegetarian filling wasn’t one of my faves just because I prefer my dumplings steamed, not fried. Also, the filling didn’t have as much flavor as I expected, but the sweet chili dipping sauce was delightful enough to carry this through.
It’s important that you eat this while it’s hot or it’ll become tough. That’s always my issue with fried dumplings.
Shrimp & Pork Wontons with House Special Spicy Sauce (Php 185 for 6 pieces) 🌟
I’m always so biased with these kinds of dumplings in spicy vinegar-based sauces. Add to that I am also biased towards dumplings that have shrimp in them. This one was something I thoroughly enjoyed!
Crispy Noodles with Seafood (Php 285)
Assorted seafood sits atop a crunchy nest of fried noodles. This dish was tasty, but it was also quite normal to me. I don’t know why I expected something different.
Machang Noodles with Sesame & Peanut Sauce (Php 155) 🌟
A small plate of very flavorful noodles thanks to the sesame and peanut sauce. This was one of my favorites of the day. The strong taste of the sesame and peanut sauce coated the noodles perfectly. If you’re a fan of peanut sauces done right like I am, you will enjoy this one. I’m craving for this dish as I write this!
Pork Chop Fried Rice (Php 295)
The pork chops on this dish was like a punch of flavor. It verged on salty actually, but with the help of the fried rice the flavors were kept at bay. The pork chops were very soft though. I loved the mouthfeel!
Stir-Fried Watercress (Php 185)
Stir-fried watercress is always so straight-forward. I’m not sure if there’s anything else I can say except that the watercress was fresh and crisp. It also wasn’t too oily or soggy. We ordered this so we could have our needed serving of veggies.
Golden Lava Salted Egg Yolk Bun (Php 90 for 2 pieces) 🌟
Finally, we get to the dessert part. I enjoyed the salted egg lava buns they have here. It has that light milky aftertaste that I love, and the filling is so generous it drips down the side of the buns. Yummmm! One of my favorite versions I’ve eaten.
Chocolate Lava Xiao Long Bao (Php 115 for 3 pieces)
We tried this out of curiosity. These are so fat and cute! The wrappers they used here are different in that it’s actually a thin layer of mochi that houses the molten chocolate. For me, the shell was just the right amount of thickness to make it chewy and remind you that you’re eating dessert now. Between this and the salted egg buns though, I recommend the buns hands down.
I may be one of the last food bloggers to actually have tried Din Tai Fung, but I don’t mind. I actually feel like Din Tai Fung passed the test here. I think they have been able to maintain the standard of their food even after churning out thousands upon thousands of xiao long bao, because why else would people keep coming back? You can see and taste the quality of the food they make.
The only problem is I can’t really say that I would come to eat here regularly because it’s not exactly a budget-friendly restaurant. Some of the prices of their dishes are way more expensive than what I feel they should be for the size. I feel like I can get the same kind of dish in another Chinese resto for less but just as good.
My thoughts on Din Tai Fung are neither here nor there. I am not saying at all that I didn’t enjoy my meal here because I did. Everything tasted good, and as you might’ve noticed with the stars, I had favorites among the things we ordered. It’s just that I live so close to Chinatown that I can’t help but compare what I can get there for much cheaper.
There are actually a few places in the Chinatown area that offer great-tasting discounted dimsum, noodles, and congee during certain hours of the day. The quality may not be exactly the same and the interiors of their restaurants not as posh as Din Tai Fung’s, but what matters in the end is that their ingredients are fresh, plus their food tastes good and gives me a real bang for my buck. I keep returning to those restaurants for exactly those reasons.
As for Din Tai Fung, to me it’s an option for the occasional splurge.
What’s your Din Tai Fung experience? I’m sure many of you have visited this restaurant way before I ever did. Share your thoughts and favorite dishes with me below!
My rating: 7 out of 10
Din Tai Fung
Full disclaimer: This post is NOT sponsored in any way and I received no compensation for writing this review. All opinions stated above are my own.