Din Tai Fung is now a popular restaurant chain throughout Asia and Australia. The restaurant has its roots based in Taiwan and serves Taiwanese food, as well as some Shanghainese style dishes too!
The Melbourne store, which I visited in mid-May 2016, has been open for about a year (opened June 2015). It opened off the back of successful restaurants in Sydney and throughout Asia.
The chain has a number of accolades and awards. It features in many cooking and travel shows, as well as its Hong Kong branch(es) featuring in the Michelin Guide in recent years.
I visited the Melbourne store with high expectations. I have been fortunate enough to try the Sydney store (which has been open for a number of years!) at World Square a few times, as well as the branch in Central World, Bangkok. Both of those restaurants are very good! So how does Melbourne stack up?
Din Tai Fung is located on Level 4 of Emporium in the CBD (if in doubt, keep going up the escalators on the Swanston Street side!). I visited for an early Friday lunch, and thankfully there was no queue, although I did notice a large pile of portable buzzers (and a large foyer area) for when the crowds roll in! The restaurant itself is huge! The seating area is in a large ‘L’ shape and there are tables spread throughout. Apparently it sits more than 200 people (not surprising based on what I saw)! The seating was not cramped despite its capacity.
As with all Din Tai Fung restaurants that I have visited, the kitchen and prep area is in clear view. I observed the army of workers hastily making their most famous dish – Xiao Long Bao (Shanghainese style soup dumplings).
They have a big menu! I would not recommend going solo like I did – particularly if you want to try a variety of dishes. I was hungry, so I ordered pork chop with fried rice, as well as a serve of their chilli oil dumplings.
Although it was seemingly the most ‘Western’ item on the menu, its also probably one of the most ‘Taiwanese’ dishes also. I haven’t been to Taiwan, but pork chop always features in Taiwanese Cafes, and Hong Kongers are also fond of this dish.
Regardless of how it is classified, the dish is delicious! The pork was full of flavour (maybe a tad salty) and fully de-boned. The rice (mixed with egg and spring onion) balanced the chop well and was perfectly cooked, as would be expected. Great dish!
The chilli oil dumplings were satisfying also. Inside the dumplings were a mix of shrimp and pork, but there’s also a pork/vege option. No problems with these, although the sauce is not as spicy as it claims. I was eating my dishes with the chilli oil condiment and the flavour of that dwarfed the sauce (great chilli oil though!). No problems with the dumplings!
Its worth mentioning that the service was very good. They have a ‘canteen style’ ordering system like Tim Ho Wan, but the waitresses were very helpful and friendly. The food and tea came out like clockwork.
If the rest of the dishes are as consistent as the two that I tried, my recommendation would be to try the xiao long bao, as well as the Taiwanese beef soup – these two dishes have been really good at the other branches that I have tried.
Overall it was a good experience for lunch. Unfortunately a little pricy (around $30 for 2 dishes and tea), but I ate well. Definitely worth coming in a group for next time.
If you are a fan of Din Tai Fung then please check out our Instagram account (links below and on the side), as we have recently had an epic meal at Din Tai Fung Bangkok!
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