October 3, 2009
Din Tai Fung was the site of the first Umamiventure outside the United States. On September 27, for Sunday lunch, six hungry Tokyoites and a visitor piled into the busy Din Tai Fung branch on the 12th floor of Shinjuku’s Takashimaya Square.
I arrived there first with Anders and was greeted with a line of about 20 people. The line moved super fast and the servers were really attentive in keeping us up to date as to the progress of the line. The turnover was really quick with the main clientele being middle-aged Japanese women who just had to have their Sunday morning dumpling fix. Our party arrived staggered, but the servers still allowed us to sit with our incomplete party – this was very courteous of them since the restaurant was so packed.
The interior of the restaurant was large and airy. With bamboo stalks shooting out from the low dividers within the restaurant and an ample terrace dining area, it was hard for me to believe that we were in the middle of cramped, smoggy Shinjuku. Once we sat down, the service was speedy, pleasant and no-nonsense.
We immediately ordered the pork dumplings, daikon mochi, stir-fried greens, scallop dumplings, shrimp shumai, chimaki, etc. The food came promptly.
Everyone seemed to be a XLB virgin and it was a bonding experience to pop our XLB cherry at the same meal. What I really enjoyed most about the dumplings was the dipping sauce with the fresh grated ginger. The more I eat, I realize that the condiments are key – and when they are fresh, it makes all the difference.
The dumplings themselves were phenomenal – not scalding hot as I suspected. The dumpling wrap was also of perfect thickness, providing a perfect ratio to the filling.
I am always a little skeptical of chain restaurants that dominate more than two continents. So I didn’t go into Din Tai Fung with high expectations. But combined with the service and the food, it is obvious that Din Tai Fung is in the restaurant business for a reason – they are really good at it. In a store that you expect to wait over an hour – I didn’t see any irate customers or restless staff personnel.
Din Tai Fung seems to have the reputation of being world-reknowned. I will second that claim by saying that its been Tokyo Umamiventure-reknowned. Our group consisted of a Dane, Thai, Brazilian, Icelander, Japanese and three Americans – we all approved. We ordered about four rounds of grub over the approximately 90 minute period.
Here’s the breakdown of what we ordered:
3 orders chimaki
The grand finale was two orders of Din Tai Fung’s dessert mango dumplings. The dripping yellow insides had a subtle sweetness that was a great idea wrapped up in the dumpling wrap. These disappeared in less than 5 minutes.
The total was ¥15,141, which was split seven ways for a really reasonable tab of ¥2163 per person.
The TYO Umamiventure Crew:
DIN TAI FUNG
(10F, Shinjuku Takashimaya Department Store)