Din Tai Fung: Chain Restaurant Aims to Please

Din Tai Fung, the new eatery with the lines out the door on the seventh floor of CentralWorld, isn’t the latest donut craze, but they are serving up an item with equal distinction and addictiveness – dumplings. By mastering the intricate art boiling small savory balls of dough Din Tai Fung has taken the trophy for the new ‘it’ place.

Yes, Din Tai Fung is a noodle and dumpling place, which shouldn’t be that remarkable in Southeast Asia, but these are pretty damn fine dumplings. In 1993, The New York Times dubbed Din Tai Fung one of the world’s Top Ten Restaurants, and it has stubbornly clung to that accolade ever since, squeezing it into every marketing gimmick, as it became a chain.  The gift and the curse of an explosion in popularity can lead to greed and feuding.  Fortunately, Din Tai Fung has been able to uphold a certain sense of integrity.

In Taiwan, where the eatery originated, you can see artisans hand-making dumplings and noodles on numerous streets and in kitchens. And KohSpot knows in Bangkok there are a few such places in Chinatown as well, but you usually have to dig for them. Known to Thais as xiaolongbao, part of the allure of such shops is that you can watch kitchen staff making and steaming the dumplings, which makes for entertainment as you wait.  And that is exactly what you will be doing as Din Tai Fung does not take reservations and the line can easily wrap around the corner during peak hours so you better get there early or bring along your ipad for lengthy game of AngryBirds.

Despite the lines, Din Tai Fung rotates customers through quickly because it is one of the few restaurants in Bangkok thatactually gets good use out of the army of employees at its disposal. The food is really something to behold. The dumplings are rightly famous, and KohSpot could actually taste the different shredded crab and pork (315 baht++) in each bite. The Oriental wanton soup with scallions (160 baht++) was both sour and spicy, and the fresh noodles with pork and mung beans (165++) is a Taiwan classic. But a revelation was the braised tofu topped with mushroom and minced meat (80+), which made love to our tastebuds and then left without so much as a kiss. We have never been so happy to feel like a hooker. This was more subtle tofu than we’ve run across in Taiwan or the mainland.

Even the free flow jasmine tea (25++) was pretty good. If pressed for a weakness, one could point out there should be several cheaper places like this in Chinatown, and if you know any, do identify them in the comments below.

Bottom line: this is a really slick business that identified a need and realized they could charge a little more for a superior product and excellent service. You owe it a try if you have even a passing affinity for dumplings or tofu.

Location: B705, 7th floor of CentralWorld, overlooking Rajdamri Road, in the former fondue restaurant
Mass transit: BTS Chitlom
Hours: 10 am-10 pm daily
Phone: 02-646-1282

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