Monday, June 03, 2019

Din Tai Fung, Sydney

Update Reviews, 2018 - 2019

It has been a few years since I have reviewed the Din Tai Fun establishments in Sydney, although I've reviewed others since (like the sad noodles with sesame sauce in Bellevue, or the delightful wontons in spicy sauce in Costa Mesa).

I have now visited three Sydney locations, besides my original Westfield Mall review.  I generally think Din Tai Fung is well made items, but I don't get quite as excited as others.

World's Square Location, November 2018

When I was in Sydney, one night, post dinner, and post dessert, I still was not satisfied.  I really wanted an Asian dessert, but, since I already had one round of dessert, and I was alone, I couldn't quite go for most of the Asian dessert places, as, well, they come super sized, intended to be shared. And, it was cold out, so my usual go-to of soft serve ice cream was also out.  And ... I really wanted taro.  I wasn't exactly set up for success.

I decided to give Din Tai Fung's dessert lineup another try.  I did not like the golden taro bread when I tried it before from the Westfield mall location, nor did I like the taro mini bun when I tried it in Costa Mesa (although I did like the taro filling).  Luckily for me, besides taro ice cream (again, too cold), there was one more taro item on the dessert menu, so I gave it a try.

My order took a fairly long time to be ready, close to 20 minutes.  On the plus side, that meant it was freshly made, and handed over quickly.

It was ... a mixed success.
Taro Dumplings. $6.90.
The dumplings were hot, and smartly spaced in the take away container so they didn't stick together.

The wrappers were nicely done, not too thick, not too thin, not gummy, good chew, well formed.  Soft, doughy, not bad.

Inside was taro mash, slightly sweetened.  It was good, clearly real taro mash, and I loved the flavor of the taro.

So all good, well done components.  The thing is ... this really wasn't a dessert to me.  While sweet, it wasn't that sweet, and I really felt it needed ... something.  A dipping sauce perhaps?  I'm not sure what would go with taro, but some kind of sesame dipping sauce maybe?  Or some kind of cream component?  Coconut cream?  Or even just a hot sweet soup?

I had whipped cream with me in my bag (don't ask), so I dunked one in that, and it was certainly better, but still not quite right.

Unless I went armed with plenty of toppings, I wouldn't get these again, although, again, they were well made.

Central Park Location, March 2019

This is yet another story of a time when I already had dinner, wasn't satisfied, went to get dessert, loved my dessert, but ... still wanted something more.

And it happened at a time when I was walking through the new Central Park mall, with a nice new Din Tai Fung location.  I took the opportunity to try just one more Din Tai Fung item.
The location is directly adjacent to the food court, mostly just roped off to be their specific seating, with full table service.

But you can also order take out easily, there is a takeout ordering and pickup area right at the front, and you can take your food three steps away to the communal seating.  If you don't feel like dealing with restaurant service, or are with a group that want things from multiple places, this is a very fast, very easy option.

It is what I choose to do, since I was just picking up one item.  I was given a buzzer, but didn't need it, as I saw my order come out, and just walked up to pick it up.
Classic Open Kitchen.
Like most (all?) Din Tai Fung locations, it features a kitchen you can see into, with the dumpling cooks in action.

I watched for the few minutes it took my dumpling to be made.
Black Truffle Pork Dumpling. $4.90.
Most of the dumplings at Din Tai Fung come with 6 per basket (occasionally, 4).  But this is the only dumpling sold individually.  Behold, the coveted, limited quality, only available at some locations, black truffle pork dumpling.

It ... was a dumpling.  A decent dumpling, well made wrapper, with just a touch of chew to it, otherwise quite pliable.  The pork filling was moist, reasonably well seasoned.

But of course this is about the truffle.  I'm happy to report that the black truffle really does come through in this dumpling.  Certainly the strongest flavor.  There were little bits of crunch, that I really hope were tiny bits of truffle, and not something else very odd inside.  The truffle flavor though really was legit.

If you really want a dumpling, and want black truffle in it, this seems like a reasonable dumpling, but at $4.90 a piece, it certainly would get expensive to fill up on these.  I'm glad I tried it, but it wasn't remarkable enough to make me eager to have more.

Original Review, 

Westfield Mall Location, March 2015

"The World's Tastiest Dumplings".  That is Din Tai Fung's claim to fame, and quite the claim.  They serve a large variety of dumplings, although the xiao long bao are their signature item.

I somehow hadn't heard of Din Tai Fung until my recent visit to Sydney.  Din Tai Fung is a chain, started in Taiwan, with locations worldwide, including China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, and the US, amongst others.  Two of their locations in Hong Kong even have received Michelin stars.

They have 3 locations in Sydney alone, one is a full service restaurant, and the other two are part of food courts, one at the Star casino, and the other at the Westfield mall.  I visited the Westfield mall location, which, while part of a food court, isn't your normal style establishment.  They still make all dumplings by hand, to order, although the menu is reduced.

The location was crazy, crazy busy.  The line was long, but that provided ample time to fill out the paper ordering form provided.  Once we reached the head of the line, we handed over the form, the cashier confirmed each item one by one as she keyed it in.  It didn't seem any more efficient than just ordering directly.

Unfortunately, we really didn't like anything we tried.  Some of the food was hot, some lukewarm.  I'm assuming the quality issues were due to the location we picked, rather than being a chain-wide issue, because, how else would they possibly have Michelin stars?  I'm open to trying another, non-food court, location sometime, but I won't go rushing back.
Open Kitchen.
Even in the food court setting, the  kitchen is open, so you can watch food being prepared.  After ordering, you are given a buzzer.  It took us less than 10 minutes to receive our order, which was longer that I expected for a food court, fast-casual establishment, but, they do make everything to order, so, that matters.
The self-serve condiment station had plates, spoons, chopsticks, packets of ginger, soy sauce, chili sauce, and vinegar.

While Ojan waited with a buzzer for the food, I set up a table in the open food court, and set about mixing up my perfect dipping sauce.  I appreciated these components.
Lychee Mint Freeze.  $5.80.
Reviews I read recommended the Lychee Mint Freeze as a perfect drink to go along with the food.  Not something I'd ever normally order, but I went for it.

I really didn't like it.  It was just a sweet syrup, with some mint flavor, in an icy slush.  The slush was nice, but it was just far too sweet.  There was a prize lychee in the bottom that I enjoyed.

$5.80 was a high price for a drink.
Crab Meat and Roe with Pork Dumpling. $9.80.
We started with the item Din Tai Fung is most known for: Xiao Long Bao, available in many styles.

I had my eye on a special crab version, available only on the menu for the larger, full service restaurant in Haymarket, but not on the online menu for the Westfield location.  I didn't think we'd be able to order them, and would have to settle for classic xiao long bao.  I was thrilled to see them on the menu at the mall, because crab is one of my most favorite ingredients.

But ... these weren't very good.  First, they were lukewarm.  Second, they didn't actually have any soup inside.  What is a soup dumpling without the soup?  And third, I didn't taste any crab.  Sigh.  How could they go so wrong with a signature item?

Things were not looking good.  The price was also a bit high, although they are double (!!) the price at the Haymarket location, so I guess this was reasonable comparatively.
Steamed Vegetarian Jiao Ze.  $5.80.
We wanted more dumplings, and there were very few choices, so we selected the regular vegetarian ones.  We weren't sure what was going to be inside of them exactly, since the menu just said "vegetarian", but I do tend to love vegetarian dumplings, particularly snow pea or mushroom, so I was hopeful.

The dumplings were hot and fresh, the skins nice enough.  Much better than the lukewarm xiao long bao.  But, I hated the taste of the filling.  It was a mix of assorted veggies and tofu.  It was bitter and mushy and just not flavors I enjoyed at all.

The price seemed a bit high compared to other items, $5.80 for the four.
Vegetarian Bun. $2.80. Mini Sweet Bun (Black Sesame). $1.90.
The final savory item we picked was a bun.  Since the prices were low, I was skeptical of the pork option, so we went for veggie, the only other choice.

I really didn't like it.  The dough was just ... doughy.  It wasn't slightly sweet, it wasn't ... anything.  Just there.  The filling was the same as in the dumplings, and I again disliked it, although this time it was even worse, as it was in greater quantity.  The $2.80 price was fine for a large item, but I didn't even want to swallow a second bite of this.

Of course, I was also really excited for the desserts.  I wanted everything taro.  I love taro, and Sydney is filled with it.  I quickly picked the fried taro dessert for one of our options, and then decided to mix it up with a sweet bun, and pick something else for the filling.  My options were taro, red bean, and black sesame.  Black sesame sounded the most unique, so I went with it.

The bun seemed exactly the same as the vegetable bun, not sweet, which I really wanted for a dessert bun, and again not very good.  The black sesame filling was slightly sweet, and good enough, and it was probably the best item we got, but it still wasn't great.  $1.90 for a small bun was fine.
Golden Taro Bread, 2 pieces. $2.90.
As I said, I love taro.  I was thrilled to see a number of dessert choices featuring taro, including the "golden taro bread", which I wasn't entirely sure what it was going to be, but it sounded great.

Except, it wasn't great.  The dough was way too oily, and just tasted like oil.  The creamy taro inside was nice enough.  But ... meh.

$2.90 for the pair was reasonable, and they were hot and fresh, just, too oily.
Din Tai Fung Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails