Din Tai Fung opened a branch in the Bay Area last year and after ridiculous lines, they decided to make it reservation-only except for counter seating. And even today, when it’s been open for more than six months, a weekend seating still requires booking a month in advance. Luckily it’s easy to do on Yelp. It does require a credit card number but they won’t charge you unless you don’t turn up.
In case you’ve not heard of Din Tai Fung, they originated in Taiwan. The founder Yang Bingyi was born in China and moved to Taiwan where he worked at a cooking oil shop. Business slowed when tinned cooking oil became more common so he and his wife started selling xiaolongbao and it became so popular that they eventually turned it into a xiaolongbao restaurant. The first Singapore branch (franchised by BreadTalk Group) opened in 2003. And there are now 19 locations in Singapore! In comparison, there are 4 in LA, 1 in Orange County, 1 in the SF Bay Area, 2 in Seattle.
And at the restaurants, you get to see the dumpling making in action. It is not easy – they make about 20 a minute!
We lucked out on a great time slot on Saturday at 11.15, were promptly seated and made sure to order our favourites like the xiaolongbao, pork chop fried rice, soy noodles and taro xiaolongbao. Also ordered some sliced chicken noodles for the 3yo who declared he wanted rice and noodles. There are plenty of Din Tai Fungs all around Singapore but I think there may be different items on the menu here in California like the stirfried rice cakes. Before this one in Bay Area opened, we had previously been to the ones in Glendale and Orange County down in Southern California. Both require lots of patience. I always remember that we had arrived at the Glendale outlet around 2 or 3 something on a weekend and still had to wait 45 minutes for a table.
So I kind of like the reservation system in the Santa Clara branch. One just has to remember to go online a month in advance, that’s all! 😛
The tofu noodles – I didn’t like this as much as I usually do at other places. Most of the tofu noodles I’ve eaten are sliced thin, but these seem to have been extruded, probably to look more like noodles, but I feel like its too soft this way.
The steamer basket behind is of the pork and shrimp siu mai. I had always wondered about their siu mai which is also available in Singapore but now that I’ve tried it, I don’t think I’ll order it again. It’s like a xlb at the bottom and the skin stretched up to crown the shrimp. But the skin in the middle is thicker, possibly to give it more support to the dumpling, so it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.
We really enjoyed the sliced chicken noodle soup, which was simple but really delicious, well-cooked noodles and nice and soft chicken and lots of vegetables like carrots, bok choy and sliced bamboo shoots. Wish I had remembered to take a photo of it!
The three-year-old’s favourite part of the meal was probably the lychee slush.
And the five-year-old’s was the taro xiaolongbao. The taro is sweetened and mashed and wrapped in the dumpling dough and steamed. So it’s a sweet purpley and slightly sticky xiaolongbao. He probably ate five of them!
As we were nearly done with the meal, the husband wondered, should we just make another reservation now for next month? But of course when I checked the Yelp reservations, the only time slots for Saturday – FOUR weeks from now – was 1015 and 245. And similar odd times for the Sunday! I’ve made a note on my phone’s calendar to remind myself to check next week!
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