The original Din Tai Fung in Taipei has people milling around the storefront, eating roasted chestnuts from a street vendor opportunistically located nearby, whilst waiting for their number to be called so that they can enter past the busy kitchen, and ascend the stairs to dumpling heaven.
The Sydney outposts (there are seven) differ in a few ways. The World Shopping Centre premises is more of a restaurant and people wait outside eating roasted chestnuts and drink beer. Restaurant chains typically invite scepticism, but they are known for their consistency – and at Din Tai Fung, this translates to reliably high-quality food comparable to the original and service that is pleasant and efficient.
The only puzzle is why they feel the need to still post placards boasting their inclusion in the New York Times' Top 10 Restaurants in the World list – in 1993. It’s an impressive accolade, sure, but the food here absolutely speaks for itself.
The menu changes rarely, and thank god, as these dishes have been perfected. The famed pork xiao long bao are little parcels of soupy happiness. Despite some uncertainty regarding the specific ingredients in the ‘vegetarian delight’, this signature starter is a winner. The fried rice, lacking the surplus volumes of oil that is the norm, is elevated from a perfunctory menu item to a must-have. For spring, don't miss Din Tai Fung's lamb dumplings, filled with molten chocolate and taro.
The venues at The Star and Westfield Sydney are more like cafes with much more condensed menus, although the renowned Golden Lava (a sweet and salty egg custard bun) is still available at all locations. Check the website for venue open hours as they vary.