Level 1, Shop 11.04
World Square Shopping Centre
644 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9264 6010
As most of you will know, I love my dumplings more than I love James Marsden and summers at the cricket (are we done with winter yet?) and quite possibly, life itself. If you also love dumplings then you would have heard of Din Tai Fung, the internationally acclaimed restaurant that specialises in xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). It began in
Afrika Taiwan in the 1980s and has since branched out to many other countries, with some branches picking up Michelin stars and New York Times top restaurant awards along the way.
Michelin star or not, I knew that, on my last trip to Sydney, I wasn’t going to board the plane back to Melbourne until I made a visit to DTF (haha what an acronym). With Marty in tow, I rocked up to DTF late one Sunday morning just in time for brunch. We were lucky because we had snagged one of the last empty tables – a few minutes later and we would have missed out and be made to wait in the queue that was slowly starting to form outside the restaurant.
Despite being a busy restaurant, DTF seems to have efficiency down-pat. After being seated, our waiter wheeled out a little trolley lined with a bag and told us to dump our bags, sweaters and miscellaneous items in it. It was a cute idea, though I preferred my camera on my lap, thanks. We were told to study the menu, and then tick the items (and quantities) we wanted on the printed sheet of paper provided. I love places that do this because, in theory, it decreases the likelihood of mistakes being made.
I spoke too soon though. Our drinks arrived before I even got a chance to set up my camera. I ordered a lychee mint freeze ($6.80) while Marty’s green apple Italian soda ($4) was nowhere to be seen – in its place was some other random drink. So much for diminishing the likelihood of mistakes occurring. After the waiter apologised, he ran back to the kitchen to grab Marty’s correct drink.
In hindsight, we probably should have told him to leave the drink in the kitchen for it was horrible. I don’t know what makes a ghastly lemonade and green apple bubble tea syrup concoction ‘Italian’ but it was horribly saccharine. Marty might not think anything of wolfing down two bags of mini Picnic bars but this was too sweet, even for him (‘I don’t have the taste buds of a four-year old anymore’).
Thankfully, our food tasted better. We started off with the xiaolongbaos (XLB). From what I can remember, there are two kinds of XLB available on the menu: the standard pork ones (six for $10.80 or eight for $12.80) and the special crab meat and pork ones (six for $17.80 or eight for $19.80). No prizes in guessing how many of each we chose.
We thought the pork XLBs were fantastic. The skins were as thin as the XLBs you get at Hu Tong but for some reason, felt sturdier. Marty also said that Hu Tong’s skins actually had flavour whereas these ones didn’t. Meanwhile, the pork filling was not only tastier but also sweeter than Hu Tong’s which would be seen as a +1 for heaps of people. I’ve been told that XLBs should be a little on the slightly sweet side so I guess DTF is doing it right (which therefore makes me wrong *sob*). They were certainly delicious but I noticed that when the XLBs cooled down, they actually didn’t taste as nice as Hu Tong’s dumplings when they are lukewarm.
I liked the idea of a XLB with crab meat and pork filling but not so much paying almost $20 for eight pieces. For $19.80, I was expecting to be blown away but that moment didn’t come. Don’t get me wrong, they were wonderful and the crab meat certainly added a different dimension to the dumplings but I did expect more.
We also ordered some wontons with tangy sauce, only because Marty loves the same dish at Hu Tong. Now, they only have one variety at Hu Tong (i.e. pork) so you can imagine how excited he was when we saw not only vegetable and pork wontons with tangy sauce (six for $9.80) on the menu, but also shrimp and pork wontons with tangy sauce (six for $10.80) next to it.
Of course, we ordered both versions and they did not disappoint. Now, the wantons were textbook perfect but what really makes this dish good or not is the quality of the sauce. On its own, the tangy sauce at DTF tasted really, really good but just lacked the depth that Hu Tong’s version has. That said, as when we put spoonfuls of chilli oil into the sauce, the whole thing just tasted that much better – maybe even better than Hu Tong’s.
Finally, we shared a bowl of cha jiang noodles with minced pork ($13.80). Marty, having never tried this before, thought that the noodles were ‘nice’ and that the use of ‘saucy mince’ (almost said ‘saucy minx’ there!) reminded him of an ‘Asian spag bol.’ I thought the noodles were flavoursome – and certainly not bad – but lacked a bit of something. I don’t know what though, probably MSG (kidding).
DTF Sydney is certainly a decent Sunday brunch spot if you want dumplings, but don’t feel like sitting through the theatrics of yum cha. That said, watching the chefs methodically plough through bowls of dough and pork to make those delicious dumplings through the glass window does make for riveting viewing while you wait for your food. Despite the dining room being busy, we thought the service was pretty good and the food isn’t bad either. That said, we did think that $95 for four servings of dumplings, a bowl of noodles, two cold drinks and hot tea was pretty steep. To put it in context, the same meal at Hu Tong would have been around $30 cheaper and we would have spent the extra cash on beer at Hofbrauhaus next door. DTF is definitely worth a visit at least once but I’d be more inclined to keep it on the side as occasional booty call rather than enter a long-term relationship with it.