My mother and I both had Boxing Day off from work and as we were both free of plans, we decided to make a day trip down to Bellevue, WA. We reasoned that stores in the states would have similar post-holiday sales, minus the people. The states do not formally participate in Boxing Day as they have their holy shopping day of ridiculous retail promotions on Black Friday but yet it simply makes more sense to hold such a shopping event the day after Christmas. Think about it: stores overstock their inventory forecasting last minute holiday shoppers, items that don’t get sold must go on clearance to prepare for the new season’s products = Boxing Day! But I digress. Although I’ve spent many summers in Bellevue (my best friend from childhood lives in Bellevue), I’m unfamiliar with the dining scene. On the other hand, my mom has wanted to try Din Tai Fung since last Christmas! So after much kicking and screaming (from me), we waited 45 minutes for a table for 2 at 3 in the afternoon. Apparently it’s always busy.
Din Tai Fung is on Bellevue Way, right across the street from Bellevue Square in downtown Bellevue. It’s on the second floor, above a Maggiano’s.
When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by Top 40 music, an open kitchen concept displaying chefs of various ethnicities (other than Chinese) preparing 小笼包 and several hostesses taking your name with tablets.
It’s not that I have anything against people of other ethnicities making Chinese food. I am trying my best not to stereotype anyone. For all I know, these men could be trained at the top culinary schools in Shanghai. But seriously, come on, lets be realistic here. It’s just that for the amount of hype for this restaurant, I can’t understand how people couldn’t see through this sad, commercialized attempt at authentic Chinese food. But then again, perhaps thats why Din Tai Fung chose Seattle over San Francisco and ultimately, Vancouver for their West Coast location; Din Tai Fung would not be able to compete with the existing restaurants in San Francisco and Vancouver.
And theres a bar! A “Chinese” restaurant blasting Starships by Nicki Minaj, boasting a bar…
We ordered Juicy Pork Dumplings (10 pcs) ($9.50), their claim to fame. This is arguably what earned them New York Times’ Top 10 restaurants of the world award of 1993 and one Michelin star for their Hong Kong location. My first impression of this dish was that there was little care in the presentation of this dish- the 小笼包 were not placed evenly. Next, they were tiny! The 小笼包 were actually fine. However, compared to any given Shanghainese restaurant in Richmond, these paled in comparison. Not only were they overpriced, they were lacking in quality.
By no means were they bad but they were not the best I’ve had either. The skin was not thin enough, the meat wasn’t tender enough, and above all, there was not enough juice!
This is the Braised Beef Noodle Soup ($8.50). My first impression of this dish was, “Wow they couldn’t have even bothered to stir apart the bundle of noodles”. This presentation is not okay! Even instant noodles at Enjoy Cafe 1+1 is presented more attractively! However this dish actually turned out to be my favourite of the meal! There were 4 pieces of braised beef and although quite salty, I enjoyed the flavourful soup.
Vegetable and Pork Buns (2 pieces) ($4.25).
Your typical bun.
Sweet Eight Flavour Rice ($4.50). This is glutinous rice steamed and mixed with eight kinds of sweet toppings. In Chinese it’s called 八寶飯, which literally translates into eight treasures rice. This was good but the rice was slightly undercooked as it was slightly hard rather than soft and chewy as it should be.
In conclusion, Din Tai Fung does not live up to its hype- at least not for me. The food is not bad but definitely does not compare to that of Vancouver’s, at least not from this Din Tai Fung location. I will not go out of my way to eat here again but hey, if someone offers to take me here, I’m not going to say no!
Thanks for eating with me!