I have a favourite restaurant in Singapore. I’m that posh. Sure it’s a chain of restaurants and you have to line up with a little buzzer to get in. They also give you a pen and paper menu that you have to fill in yourself. Maybe I need to review my poshness credentials.
But one of the positives of a much-loved restaurant being a chain is that they keep popping up in the most unlikely places. And now Din Tai Fung, makers of the “world’s tastiest dumpling” have decided to bless Melbourne with an outlet.
Starting out in the 1970’s as a stall in Taipei, Din Tai Fung have stumbled on a winning formula and by goodness they are running with it with outlets across Asia, the US and now Australia. Which means that I can have my favourite dumplings after only a short drive up the highway, rather than an 8-hour flight to the island nation.
Din Tai Fung’s Melbourne venue on the top level of Emporium lacks the OTT opulence of Marina Bay Sands. There are no gondolas meandering between the designer stores and I couldn’t find anything resembling a synthetic indoor ice-skating rink. But it does get points for being considerably easier to get to than Singapore.
There were some notable exclusions from the Melbourne menu including my favourite drink, lemongrass juice. I had to console myself with a Two Birds beer. And the steamed chilli crab and pork buns are understandably a Singapore exclusive.
I did however try a few new dishes the stand out of which was the noodles with crumbed chicken fillet. The noodles looked so simple but were flavoursome and silky. This is a dish that is definitely going on my must order list for next time. I also tried dessert for the first time. The mango pudding and strawberry sorbet were both worth leaving a little room for.
But the most important item, the dish that everyone wants to try and the morsel that was granted a Michelin star are the steamed pork dumplings or xiao long baos. Even though I’ve had them before I still get a pleasant little surprise when they pop in my mouth and it fills with the tasty broth. We did have a debate about how they got the broth into the dumplings. Is it injected in? Is it put in as a frozen portion that then melts as the dumpling is steamed? Are these master dumpling folders so skilled that they can keep liquid contained with only swift hand movements as they make their minimum 18 folds to enclose these little parcels of joy? I’m sure some goggling would reveal the answer but sometimes it’s better to not know and just enjoy the magic.