13th June 2016
Level 4, Emporium Melbourne
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Din Tai Fung is widely accepted to be the home of the best Xiao Long Bao in Australia (and possibly the world, depending on who you ask). And although I’ve eaten at the Sydney branch, I felt like I owed it to Melbourne to visit the newly opened store in Emporium. Being one of the most highly anticipated restaurants in the last year, Din Tai Fung is outfitted with a large waiting area, but Tuesdays evenings are quiet, and we got a seat for 2 with no trouble at all.
Unlike its counterpart in Sydney however, the Din Tai Fung in Melbourne is a lot more restrained. Instead of the loud bustle afforded by the closely placed tables, this space on the 4th floor of Emporium is sleek and elegant, reminding me more of restaurant in a fancy hotel than anything else. Aside from that however, everything is remarkably consistent, from the familiar tick-sheet menus to the identically dressed chefs in face masks.
The signature Xiao Long Bao ($10.8, 6pcs) are always worth ordering, and these are still easily the best I’ve ever had. Despite being thin enough to border on translucent, the skin had no trouble holding its little parcel of soup and pork. Place it in a spoon, nibble a hole in the wrapping to slurp out the soup, and then eat the rest in one bite – after a quick dip in vinegar, of course.
Two years after ticking the wrong menu item in Sydney, I finally got the chance to have the Spicy Shrimp and Pork Wontons ($10.8, 6pcs). These weren’t very much to look at, which is a big shame, as a scattering of green scallions could’ve gone a long way. Fortunately these slippery little parcels were still delicious, the chunky centre of pork and prawns complemented by the smoky yet slightly sweet chilli sauce.
I had grudgingly agreed to order the Vegetable and Pork Jiao Zi ($10.8. 6pcs), but they turned out to be a surprise highlight. The pearly skin held a moist filling of pork and chopped up shepherd’s purse – a much more fragrant alternative to spinach or Chinese cabbage.
We rounded off the meal with a bowl of Braised Beef Noodle Soup ($16.8). Although nothing can beat freshly made noodles, I was less impressed with the beef and soup aspects. Having had just last night a much richer and more tender version of this braised beef made by mum, I wasn’t all that impressed by Din Tai Fung’s offering.
Over two years and 750km later, my opinion of Din Tai Fung remains largely unchanged. Although they have the best XLB around with some other high quality dishes besides, I just can’t get over how expensive everything is. After all, $50 for a light meal of dumplings for two is definitely overpriced, regardless of how good the food is.
Rating: 13/20 – can’t get enough. literally.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.