Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)
No. 218 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 4, Taipei
Well, if there is one restaurant that you must try when visiting Taiwan, it has to be Ding Tai Fung (DTF), because after all this is where it all started. They are most famous for their soupy dumpling aka Xiao Long Bao. Since I am a avid lover of this dish, I immediately add this restaurant to the list.
Although DTF originated in Taiwan, but now they have stores world wide, with the most recent one opening right across the border in Seattle (which I will talk about soon). The one I visited (Zhong Xiao branch) was not their original location, but also a very popular one. The restaurant was big, but the tables are quite cramped in my opinion. What I did love is they bring you a bag stand just for your bags, so it doesn't have to rest uncomfortably behind your back or on the ground. Also they cover the top while you dine, so there is minimal chance that it will get dirty or stolen.
The first steamer of XLB we tried was their seasonal Si Gua (luffa)/shrimp XLB. I loved this, the flavor of the soup is very much infused in the luffa because it's so absorbent. This is also the reason why this XLB has so little soup.
We also ordered a steamer XLB with crab roe. This was not cheap at all, for 10, you had to pay around $12. Although it may seem okay, but this price is consider high in Taiwan. The skin of these XLB is very thin, but yet hold it's shape very well. Although they were good, but I find the stuffing too finely grounded, and also there wasn't enough soup.
We ordered a stir fried tong chai (hollow stem veggie) for about $5. I really loved this dish, the vegetable was really fresh and crispy, and the addition of garlic just enhanced the overall flavor of the dish.
We ordered a medium bowl spicy/sour soup for around $5-6. This portion could easily fill around 5-6 regular Chinese rice bowl. The soup was nice and thick, with a spicy kick. Although most of the ingredient in the soup is typical, but there is one special item: pork blood. I know most people might not like it, but it's very common in Asia.
This has to be a dish R raved about, their shrimp fried rice. This came to be around $7.5. The rice was soft and separated. The shrimp could be fresher, it didn't have that snap to it. So in conclusion, it was good, but not great. I think R build up to much hype for me, so I was expecting a lot more for this dish.
The last thing we ordered was noodle with sesame/peanut sauce, which I believe is around $4-5. The noodle was al dente. It had that nice smooth texture and slightly chewy texture. The sauce was fragrant and slightly thick, which R loved. But since I am not a fan of peanut, I didn't particularly love it.
The service here was not bad. They were courteous and friendly, but I wish they would smile more. The one regret I have is not ordering their regular XLB, but it's okay, their specialty one was pretty good. In conclusion, I still think this is a must visit restaurant if you visit Taiwan, but maybe you can go check out their original branch in Xinyi district (No. 194, Xinyi Road Sec. 2), because they will certainly have more histories to share.