SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE. Taking centerstage today is this very popular Chinese restaurant that we tried during our stay in Marina Bay Sands. Located inside The Shoppes, Din Tai Fung is everything but unpopular. Originating all the way from Taiwan, this big international brand has not always had this kind of stature and it may come as a shock to many but Din Tai Fung did not begin as a dumpling shop either.
Bingyi Yang, the protagonist in this story, decided to open a shop offering wholesale oil from Din Mei Oils after the establishment he was working for two years then shut down. As a sign of appreciation to his first boss Heng Tai Fung, he named his new store as Din Tai Fung (combination of Din Mei Oils and Heng Tai Fung). Yang's business took a downturn when tinned oil went to sale on 1972 which led him to transform half of his store as a dumpling shop through a friend's recommendation. The exceptional taste and quality of Din Tai Fung's dumplings attracted more and more customers and this forced Yang to drop the oil and convert the whole shop to a dumpling shop. Fast forward to today, there is no more trace of the humble beginning of Din Tai Fung because of it magnanimity and popularity now all over the world.
Is there ever an instance that there's no waiting line outside Din Tai Fung? That the seats are enough for all its customers at a given time? I do not know and it would be a headline-worthy scoop if that will ever happen, but when we went there the restaurant was overflowing with diners. Instead of getting turned off by the throng of people fencing on its facade and turning our back to find another restaurant, we stuck to it as it only meant one thing: the food is worthy of the effort.
We stood at the back of the only line that was there. It moved fast and before we knew it we were already in front. I was overjoyed until the lady behind the rostrum handed me a paper bearing our number, ruthlessly bursting my happy bubble. 100 more to go! Oh shucks! Since we had already set our mind to dine there, we roamed around the mall, visited boutiques that we found interesting and finally did our grocery shopping to pass time before coming back to the restaurant. After about an hour of waiting, walking aimlessly around, shoving other people to take a better look of the big menu outside and looking curiously through the window glass that allows you to see how the chefs prepare the dumplings, our number then flashed on the LED display board signalling our turn.
The order process was fast. They gave us a sheet of paper to fill out with the dishes that had caught our liking. We just handed it over when we were already inside the establishment and had finished already populating the sheet, just like in Tim Ho Wan here and here. The water was again not free so we were forced to order a free-flowing cup of freshly brewed hot Jasmine tea each (which I did not regret one bit as it was super worth it!).
When a restaurant is dubbed as the best of its kind, it is normal that you demand high expectations from it. For me, to be called as the best translates to the fact that even the not-so-popular dishes taste amazing. Instead of going with their best dishes, we went for the ones that were not given much attention just to see if the hype is just for the Xiao Long Baos or broader than that.
Yes, it is undeniable that the ingredients used were fresh but the dishes did not give me that oomph factor I was looking for. Aside for the Yam Dumplings and Fried Rice with Shrimps and Egg which both tasted exceptional, everything else that we ordered had escaped immediately my mind and taste buds which left me with no words to say about them. Maybe it was because I had set my expectations too high or maybe it was my fault that I did not order the Xiao Long Baos which might had dominated the taste of the other dishes. Whichever it was, I knew it was a little bit of both. So if there was anything that this experience taught me, it would surely be this: Stick to the must-haves and save the experimentation on your second visit. And yes, they were all just about the Xiao Long Baos! So trust me here, you do not want to find yourself looking forward already to your next visit only because you ordered the wrong stuffs.
Singapore has 18 branches of Din Tai Fung scattered all over the country. You may click here to find the one nearest you.