Ashamedly, we are really late to the game when it comes to the charms of Din Tai Fung. A restaurant that opened in the new extension at the Mall of The Emirates late last year and has been attracting foodies en masse ever since.
Din Tai Fung was founded over forty years ago in Taiwan (in 1972 to be precise) and has since gained such an impressive following, that there are now over 100 outlets worldwide. The brand is so strong and has created such a cultural impact, that the Hong Kong location holds a coveted Michelin Star. DTF was also ranked by the New York Times as one of the ten best restaurants in the world! Needless to say our expectations were set very high!
The Dubai branch is the very first in the Middle East and customers are going crazy for it! With a no reservations policy, it’s not uncommon to queue for up to an hour to secure a prized spot in the restaurants busy dining area… Lucky for us, there was no wait when we visited for an early pre-cinema bite last week.
The first thing that struck us was how much of a ‘no frills’ place the establishment is. Decor is simple and basic with absolutely no pizzaz to proceedings. The majority of seating is outside and open to the mall and we were soon welcomed in with a friendly ‘nǐ hǎo’ – a respectful Chinese greeting.
There are few words to describe the service other than ‘prompt’ and being such a popular place the turnover of customers is very high. Not to say that we felt at all rushed, but we did feel more like a number than a valued guest.
Perusing the menu, we were astounded by all the different options of wontons, dumplings, buns, noodles, rice and soups. Being huge fans of dim sum, we couldn’t wait to get started, scribbling upon our tick sheet menu in heated excitement. Staff informed us that the food would take approximately fifteen minutes and that each item would arrive as soon as it was ready.
Soon enough, baskets of steamed delights began appearing on the table. There is something magical about the feeling of the bamboo lid being lifted and becoming momentarily engulfed in steam. First up was the infamous Seafood XiaoLongBao, the restaurants signature dish, comprising a soup filled dumpling. Now there is a knack to eating one of these bad boys and that is to place it upon a spoon and pierce the exterior with a chopstick. Let all the soup run out into the spoon and then consume the whole thing in one hit. Be careful though as the soup contained within in piping hot… The combination of a delicate melt in the mouth skin, with juicy shrimp and a broth that packed so much flavour was instantly impressive and we gobbled down the rest in no time.
After the joys of the steamed XiaoLongBao, we were unsure if the rest of the dishes could live up to the hype of out first Din Tai Fung encounter, yet as more food arrived we were certain that DTF was more than a one trick pony.
Shrimp and chicken wontons were nestled in a ‘special sauce’ that needs to be stirred while still hot, ensuring that the individual elements don’t fuse together into a sticky mess. The deep red sauce had a nice spicy kick to it, which offset the plump lightly seasoned flesh of the chicken and shrimp. It must be said that the aroma emanating off these dishes was all encompassing and really appealed to the senses.
The restaurant got steadily busier and felt like we could’ve been in a busy Asian street scene, with the clatter of pans, the pouring of tea and the tapping of chopsticks. Looking into the open kitchen, staff were fully gloved and covered head to toe, looking more like hazmat employees than masterful dim sum makers. The team worked tirelessly and with such precision (like a well oiled machine) to churn out a constant flow of perfectly formed delights.
One of our favourite dishes when ordering Chinese inspired cuisine is always the crispy chilli beef. Although the dish was tasty, it was perhaps a little too dry for our liking. The incantation of the dish that we are used to, comes mixed with a sweet and sticky chilli sauce, that coats the deep fried beef and enhances the dry texture. With no sauce, we couldn’t eat too much of this dish, though the heat from the chilli did work really well with the beefs overall dryness.
Potstickers arrived as one single piece that required separation to get to each individual dumpling. We enjoyed the crispness from where the dumplings had been pan fried and the way the textural composition contrasted with the remaining dough that had been steamed. Utilising the freshest of ingredients, paired with simple cooking all the dishes that we sampled were neither to rich or heavy on the palate.
For just 5 AED guests get unlimited Chinese tea which is perfect when combined with the bite size dim sum and works enhance the tea house aesthetic that Din Tai Fung is attempting to promote.
Din Tai Fung is a great find for lovers of dim sum, but is not really the place for an intimate dinner. Being more suited to people looking for a quick bite. Trust us when we say that the food is exceptional, the atmosphere not so much…
Now that we have visited DTF, we only wish that we had come sooner! We will certainly return again to further explore the menu, but are likely to stick more to the buns, dumplings and wontons as opposed to the noodle and rice based dishes.
With a second branch opening soon in the Al Ghurair Centre (Deira), it would appear that the charms of Din Tai Fung have worked their magic on the residents of Dubai. Din Tai Fung has successfully brought Chinese street food to the masses, via extremely cheap prices and a high quality product and their success is obvious.
Location: Level 2 Expansion, Mall Of The Emirates, Dubai
Hours: 11am – 10pm
Phone: 04 265 1288
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.