After a year’s delay caused by the May 2010 political protests and subsequent fires, Taiwanese dumpling chain Din Tai Fung recently opened its first branch in Thailand at the Central World Plaza mall at the Ratchaprasong intersection. Last week, Tawn and I made a trip there to see how well it upholds the chain’s reputation. The results? Overall, positive, but a little bland.
I almost didn’t write this entry because, well, how many times do I need to post pictures of food from Din Tai Fung? I’ve been twice in Taipei and then again in Hong Kong and Singapore. The pictures never look that different. But I waited more than a year for this branch to open and I thought it would be a shame not to give it due consideration.
One feature of Din Tai Fung locations is that the kitchen, or at least the dumpling making portion, is very visible. The company takes pride in how they operate and their cleanliness is a sign of quality. Plus, the army of cooks making thousands of dumplings is impressive to watch. Here are some photos I took, which I think looked a little more interesting in black and white.
The dining area faces large windows overlooking the Big C Supercenter across the street, letting in lots of natural light. Another seating area is open to the rest of the mall, which leaves you feeling a bit exposed.
The logos on the spoon and napkin have the Chinese, English, Japanese, and Thai versions of the restaurant’s name. The lady working the front counter, taking names, and coordinating orders was from the Singapore branch, leaving me curious about how they manage operations in different countries. Is this a franchise location or is it owned directly by the original company in Taiwan?
We started with a special “Oriental Salad in Vinegar Dressing,” which is a combination of seaweed, sprouts, mung bean noodles, and thinly sliced vegetables. While a tasty combination, it was underseasoned and benefitted greatly from a hearty splash of soy sauce.
Sliced ginger in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, the ideal condiment into which you should dip your bao, or dumplings.
The original Xiao Long Bao, steamed pork dumplings. Here in Bangkok, as well as in the Hong Kong location, I felt that the filling was under-seasoned. My memory from Taipei is that the dumplings were full of flavor, but perhaps I need to go back and test that memory.
Another variation on the dumplings, this one with vegetables and pork. The filling was more flavorful than with the original Xiao Long Bao.
Perhaps my favorite dish, the wontons with black vinegar and chilli oil. Stuffed with shrimp, these lightly sweet dumplings are served in a sauce that is not as frighteningly spicy as you might imagine.
A good concluding dish was the fried rice topped with pork chop. The lack of flavor in the bao was made up for by the pork chop, which was liberally dusted in salt and pepper.
If you are thinking of ordering dessert at the Bangkok branch, be advised that nothing is yet available. I didn’t ask why but perhaps one day they will fix whatever problem they are having.
All told, the quality continues to be high and the Din Tai Fung company can be confident that their good name will be upheld here. I’m left with the lingering question of whether the blandness in their dumplings is something that I just didn’t notice at the original locations in Taipei and the Singapore location, too, or are the dumplings actually less flavorful here and in Hong Kong? Further tests will have to be conducted!
Meanwhile, I am glad our wait for Din Tai Fung is over.