Monday, October 8, 2007

Din Tai Fung

KL has been hit by the Xiao Long Bao (XLB) or soup dumpling wave for quite sometime now. Countless XLB restaurants (and wannabees) surfaced in the past 2 years claiming to serve the best XLBs in town and I have always asked myself, "Where in the world is Din Tai Fung?". I'm not saying this because I fancy this chain restaurant (I still stand by Crystal Jade, by the way) but just feel that the XLB War will not be complete without one of its major competitors. Well, we all love to watch a good fight, don't we?

I've tried Din Tai Fung (DTF) at Paragon (Singapore) and was not really impressed by the food. So, when I heard that DTF is now in The Gardens@Mid Valley, I thought I should give it a second go since I have not tried their infamous fried rice and braised beef noodles.

I reached DTF around 12 pm on a Saturday afternoon (could have been earlier if I played my strategy well in locating the ever precious (and disappointingly deprived) parking space) and there was already a huge crowd gathering outside the restaurant, waiting to be seated. It took me about 30 minutes before I got a table. I was not surprised because knowing DTF, waiting is in the programme. The staff were very polite and organised, by the way.

Ok, let's get back to the food. The XLB (RM11 for 5 pieces) looked petite. However, the soup (or fat) tasted quite clear and the meat was tender. The overall taste was definitely on a more subtle side as compared to Crystal Jade's or Dragon I's versions. The skin was thick, though.

The Pork Buns (RM5 for 2 pieces) were again, quite petite eventhough the menu labelled it as "Da Bao (Big Buns)". Perhaps they were relatively compared to the XLB. I am guessing the meat is an upsized version of the XLB filling. The bun's skin was quite disappointing as it lacked the fluffiness that usual steamed buns exhibit.

By the time I realised I had accidentally ordered 2 types of buns, the Vegetable Pork Buns (RM5 for 2 pieces) were already on the table. Nothing much to comment as the size and skin were similar to the Pork Buns. The chopped spinach filling was quite bland too. Uninteresting.

The Vegetable and Pork Wanton La Mian (hand-pulled noodle) (RM13) looked rather unappetising. But looks can be deceiving, sometimes. The noodle was cooked to perfection with a faint flour fragrance to boast. At this point, I must say that the La Mian is of better quality as compared to the above-mentioned competitors. The wantons were quite bland though.

Also looking rather unappetising was the Braised Beef La Mian (RM16) but one sip of the broth will change your whole perspective on the dish. It was rich in beef flavour and was not overpowered by the usual beef broth spices. The beef was also very tender and the noodle was again, very well done. Definitely a dish to try when one is in DTF.

On the other hand, the celebrated Shrimp and Pork Fried Rice (RM16) was absolutely appealing with its colour and aroma. The aroma was perhaps due to the generous usage of lard. The prawns were huge and fresh. The marinated pork was tender and smooth. A tasty and hearty dish, but I suggest the dish be shared as the portion is quite huge and too much oil-coated rice can be quite overwhelming.

For dessert, we had the unusual Red Bean Paste XLB (RM5). As interesting as it may sound, this dish was nothing but red bean paste wrapped in typical XLB skin. I was hoping for a more creative take on the filling such as addition of nuts and such. When it comes to desserts, Crystal Jade still rules.

The bill came up to RM88.55 for 3 persons. A commendable place for those tiny Shanghainese dumplings and La Mian. But a former "Top Ten Restaurant in the World"? Hhhmmm...

Din Tai Fung
LG-207, The Gardens,
Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra,
59200 Kuala Lumpur.

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