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Din Tai Fung - top ten in the world?!

Ting Ting Dec 12, 2010 03:03 AM

After 45 minutes of wait at DTF Paragon (not 20 as claimed by the reception), it was really hard for me to understand how it got to the top 10 in the world by NYT.

The famed soup dumpling lacked the wham factor (rather bland soup), the texture of the noodles are too soft and limpy (Crystal Jade does much better job) and the only redeeming factor is the vegi delight which was sort of OK.

Why the queue???

  1. s
    schung Dec 19, 2010 02:23 AM

    i think the crab meat XLB at DTF HK is excellent. i'm talking about the one in the sivercord building in TST. haven't been to the DTF in causeway bay yet. and the one in whampoa garden which closed was apparantly a franchise. the DTF in singapore was terrible. dumplings were oversteamed. Te DTFs in Taipei are all good. Seoul is bad. i've also tried a number of XLB restaurants in shanghai, and i think the HK DTF is just as good. the key is the skin + the size. just right. fu shing and victoria seafood are tasty, but i like DTFs smaller ones better.

    1. r
      racer x Dec 16, 2010 03:41 AM

      Ting Ting, I had lunch at DTF Paragon, Singapore today (thursday). Arrived around 11:30 am. No wait at all -- I walked right in and got a seat. (When I left 45 minutes later, there was a long queue.)

      I agree 100%. The xlb were not impressive at all. They were very pretty and the skins were well made (thick enough to be a little chewy and to not collapse too easily when handling the xlb), but the soup and the meat were surprisingly underflavored. I'd rate them a zero in umami. The ones i had at Din Tai Fung in Shanghai, at Superbrand mall, last year were so much better.

      I tried both the pork & crab and their newer truffles xlb at Paragon. Both disappointing.
      Also was not too thrilled with the other dishes I got -- fried pork chop and cucumber in soy vinaigrette. (Tea was good though.)

      Prices were also high. That wouldn't have been such an issue if the food had been good. But I for one won't be going back.

      The one thing they did do well is steam the xlb over a nonstick fabric of some sort. The xlb peeled right off without sticking and tearing -- sometimes they tend to stick -- and sometimes break -- when steamed on the more typical steamer basket paper used at many other restaurants.

      5 Replies
      1. re: racer x
        hong_kong_foodie Dec 16, 2010 11:05 AM

        I'm a huge fan of DTF and have been to the ones in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles. In my opinion, the ones in Taipei are the best and worthy of all the praises, the ones in Hong Kong are a close second, and the ones in Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore are tied for third -- definitely not bad, but also nothing to write home about. The ones in Tokyo and Los Angeles are just an embarassment in my opinion.

        1. re: hong_kong_foodie
          spacedog Jan 1, 2011 12:52 AM

          I just came back from Singapore and I had tried DTF at Jurong Point. Perhaps this DTF was not representative of all the DTFs in SIN. The XLBs were not juicy inside and the skin was kind of chewy compared to the ones I had at Arcadia (Los Angeles). The prices were quite high due to inflation in the city-state. After that meal at JP, I didn't want to try any more DTFs in SIN.

        2. re: racer x
          Ting Ting Dec 28, 2010 05:31 AM

          Thanks for the comments - I would not have posted such a critical review if I had not taken my mum there for JiangZhe-tasting food. I have gotten an earful on "value" from her since then. Oh, well...

          1. re: Ting Ting
            racer x Dec 28, 2010 10:49 AM

            Went to Qun Zhong Eating House on Neil Road the other day for lunch. The xlb there were much, much better than at Din Tai Fung Paragon. (All the tables were full. Prices were also better than at DTF, but service and decor decidedly worse. Qun Zhong only has like a dozen items on the menu, or at least on the lunch menu. In addition to the xlb, I had what I think was minced pork sauce over noodles, their version of which I didn't care much for. I probably should have ordered the "Chinese pizza" instead, like all the other diners.

            1. re: racer x
              klyeoh Dec 29, 2010 12:09 AM

              I'd been going to Qun Zhong (where queues outside the entrance the front door is a norm) since the mid-90s. Am amazed that the crowds & the ever-present queue are still there in fickle, new-trend-seeking Singapore even till today. I guess that's a testimony to the good food Qun Zhong offers.

              Address details:
              Qun Zhong Eating House (京华小吃)
              21 Neil Road Singapore
              Tel: +65 6221 3060
              Operating hours: 11.30am-3.00pm (Lunch), 5.30pm – 9.30pm (Dinner). Closed on Wed.

        3. thirstypig Dec 13, 2010 05:52 AM

          Regardless when NYT made the review . . . DTF has arguably the best Xiao Long Bao's. I've been to the DTF in Los Angeles, Shanghai, and both locations in Taipei. They vary slightly, but all produce really good XLB's and Chicken Soup.

          But price-wise, DTF, in my humble opinion, is over-priced. I found Jiajia Tang Bao, in Shanghai, to be quite good and much cheaper as well. Nanxiang, in Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, looked soggy and unappealing. Crystal Jade's, in Shanghai, was good as well - but what Hot Chocolate said, was too thick.

          I have a few pictures and a couple of posts http://www.thethirstypig.com/

          1. epeter03 Dec 12, 2010 06:18 PM

            "In 1993, Din Tai Fung was ranked as one of the world's top 10 restaurants by The New York Times."

            Things might have changed since then......

            5 Replies
            1. re: epeter03
              Hot Chocolate Dec 12, 2010 08:57 PM

              i have yet to find a XLB SUBSTANIALLY better then DTF. but i've only been living in asia for four years.

              1. re: Hot Chocolate
                FourSeasons Dec 12, 2010 09:14 PM

                Try Fu Sing in Hong Kong, Its crab roe XLB triumph DTF's version 100 times, but only available in winter hairy crab season.

                1. re: FourSeasons
                  TomEatsHK Dec 12, 2010 11:07 PM

                  I definitely agree with Four Seasons - exceptional.

                  Just by the by, the reason it is probably in a NYT list is XLBs are, for some reason, going through a moment of "ultra fashionability" in NY. People are obsessed by them. And DTF have just opened a new Seattle branch and are probably throwing some PR money around.


                  1. re: FourSeasons
                    epeter03 Dec 13, 2010 01:14 AM

                    I'm guessing you guys haven't taken your pilgrimage to Nanxiang, the origin of XLBs. It's about an hour outside of SH but their is not much there besides a bad golf course and houses o' XLB

                    1. re: FourSeasons
                      Hot Chocolate Dec 19, 2010 02:39 PM

                      Thanks for the tip. Went to Fu Sing.

                      Had the absolute best char siew pork and baked bbq pork dumpling i've ever had. The congee was top notch, not too much MSG and the thousand year old egg / little pork sausage. didn't have any egg tarts but the mango / sago soup was the best i've had and very well balanced, not too heavy not too creamy, not too watery. much better then the one i usually have at xiao tian gu.

                      we ordered the xlb, the skin was better then DTF but mine didn't have too much "soup" it did kinda look like they popped a a bit and some juice leaked out on the non stick cloth. i think they were kind of expensive at 28 hkd each i think .... still i will be going back to fu sing. surprised it only got a bib gourmand and not a star.

                2. PeterL Dec 12, 2010 05:59 PM

                  A little sidetrack, I find that most receptionists use 20 min as a standard reply when asked how long is the wait. They usually have no idea.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: PeterL
                    Ting Ting Dec 13, 2010 03:13 AM

                    Oh. If the receptionist was quoting 25 min, it would be a loooong wait then!

                    1. re: PeterL
                      Kris in Beijing Dec 31, 2010 01:19 AM

                      +1 on time.
                      In business in Beijing, if ANYTHING is "20 minutes" then we know that 1) the speaker doesn't know and 2) we'll be happy and luck to see the delivery/person/appointment in 2 hours.

                    2. h
                      Hot Chocolate Dec 12, 2010 02:41 PM

                      I've tried a lot of XLB. I still think DTF is the best i've had. I haven't been to the one in Taipei which is considered the best of the bunch, but i've been to most of the ones in Stinakpore (Raffles, Paragon, Wisma etc).

                      I feel the crystal jade ones, the skin is too thick.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Hot Chocolate
                        Ting Ting Dec 12, 2010 05:03 PM

                        Have you tried the one at Bugis junction?

                        I heard this outpost of the original Yuyuan restaurant was better - though my last experient at their Shanghai flagship was plagued by apparent sloppiness. We were the first party at the restaurant and served with left over XLB from the day before. The skins were soaked with soap already (!!!). XLB is a special case of 灌汤包 and there are various interesting tastes from different vendors and different regions. I have definitely have had better ones elsewhere.

                        Meanwhile, the best DTF (Singapore ones) does is the XLB skin, not the soup or the meat (the key reason for the bland taste). And Crystal Jade does far better noodles than DTF.

                        1. re: Ting Ting
                          Hot Chocolate Dec 12, 2010 09:01 PM

                          Not sure if i agree with you on the filling of DTF but you're entitled to your opinion. I never go to DTF for noodles. I go with my friends if we want XLB then we order the dou mio (sp?) and the fried rice and a soup (hot & sour or pork rib). The soups are excellent. Usually we'll run through about 50 XLB between 4 people.

                          I only ever go to crystal jade wihen tourists are in town and want "chinese" food. as for "noodles." If i have a hankering for some noodles i go to a hawker stand.

                          1. re: Ting Ting
                            FourSeasons Dec 12, 2010 09:11 PM

                            Ting Ting:

                            I have the same opinion with you: DTF's soup and meat were very average at best and DTF's triumph is in its skin. I always thought DTF's Singapore version is overrated. Not sure if you meant Crystal Jade Lamien or Crystal Jade Kitchen since the former serves Northern style noodle and latter Cantonese style noodle and obviously both are different from the noodles you get at local hawker stand which are mostly either local Fujian/Hokkein or local Teochew style noodle. But bottom line: Crystal Jade's noodle is better than DTF.

                            Never been to the Nanxiang in Singapore but my expereince at the Yuyuan branch was quite pleasent though that was 5-6 years ago.

                            1. re: FourSeasons
                              Ting Ting Dec 13, 2010 12:13 AM

                              Thanks for your comments. I meant Crystal Jade LaMien at Holland - the triangle shaped ones were the closest texture I could get for Suzhou style noodle around here.
                              Klyeoh: it depends on where your friend from Shanghai originated from -Wuxi? Shaoxin? Cities a bit north of Shanghai tend to have sweeter tasting XLBs.

                              I guess one issue for these chains in SG is sourcing their food.

                        2. skylineR33 Dec 12, 2010 06:31 AM

                          What is NYT ? Please don't tell me this is some kind of ranking related to some magazine in US and is actually being taking seriously ...

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: skylineR33
                            Charles Yu Dec 12, 2010 07:23 AM

                            New York Times. Wonder which DTF are they referring to? The one in Taipei, Shanghai or HK? ( Hay sklineR33, imagine the Markham one?! Ha!! )

                            1. re: Charles Yu
                              skylineR33 Dec 12, 2010 07:30 AM

                              Oh. no wonder there is DTF on the list.

                              1. re: Charles Yu
                                racer x Dec 12, 2010 07:51 AM

                                I think DTF Paragon refers to DTF Paragon Mall, Singapore.

                                But I'm curious to know where in the NYT they were claimed to be on the top 10 list.

                                There seem to be a bunch of DTF mentions from various locations around the world for best xlb.

                                1. re: Charles Yu
                                  klyeoh Dec 12, 2010 05:14 PM

                                  NYT probably referred to the one in Taipei - and it was on their top 10 list probably a decade ago.
                                  That said, DTF in Singapore tasted different from the one I tried in Taipei - that, I was told, was because the pork used in Taipei was from a variety of black pigs in Taiwan (similar to Japanese kurobuta, I'm supposing).
                                  Anyway, the chicken soup in Singapore was also nothing like the one served in Taipei and, again, I'm told the variety of chicken used was different. The Taiwanese mountain chicken yielded sweeter, tastier meat.
                                  I'd rate the Taipei outlets 8 out of 10, and the Singapore outlets 5 out of 10.

                                  I had a visiting Shanghainese friend a while back who was on his first visit to Singapore - I took him for lunch at both Crystal Jade (Ngee Ann City) and DTF (Paragon) within the same hour. Asked him which he preferred, and he said DTF! Said it tasted more like what XLB should be like. I was surprised, since most Singaporeans preferred Crystal Jade's, which perhaps had more subtle HK-Cantonese-influenced flavors.

                                  1. re: Charles Yu
                                    K K Dec 12, 2010 08:49 PM

                                    I've driven by "Ding Tai Fung" while visiting relatives in Richmond Hill 7 years back.
                                    Absolutely no relation to the global monster originating in Taipei known as Din Tai Fung (despite lifting the name in Chinese as well as similar looking menu items).

                                    Recently DTF HK received a Michelin star which boggles the mind (since they are also in JPN). If Michelin invaded Taipei I wonder what restaurants would get the award.

                                    DTF is a successful brand name but stil a chain with inconsistencies either way you look at it and I'm sure Crystal Jade locations may have similar inconsistency issues.

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