Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cheap Eats Review: Din Tai Fung (Wisma Atria, Orchard Road, Singapore) & Prelude to Tetsuya's Waku Ghin

Din Tai Fung *

During our brief visit to Singapore, we visited the Marina Bay area which is now the site of architectural monuments such as the Marina Bay Sands. This complex is also home to various outposts of celebrity chefs; the ones worth mentioning and in our shortlists include Tetsuya Wakuda's Waku Ghin and Guy Savoy's self-titled restaurant.

Marina Bay Sands

Waku Ghin & Guy Savoy in Marina Bay Sands - reserved for future trips
We, instead, headed to Orchard Road for window shopping and came across two Din Tai Fung restaurants. From its humble beginnings in Taiwan, Din Tai Fung has become an international success with stores in China, Hong Kong, Japan, across South East Asia, Australia and USA. Food critics have also warmly received Din Tai Fung; the Michelin guide awarded 1 Michelin star to a DTF in Hong Kong - a real surprise, to be honest.

The menu lists a long list of Shanghai style dishes.....including the renowned "Xiao Long Bau" a.k.a. small steamed soup dumplings. We were seated in front of a line of the pastry chefs preparing the dough pastry and various dumplings. Each pastry is hand-made and randomly weighed during the pastry making process to ensure consistency and quality control. It's no wonder DTF's success is based on the xiao long bau. 

Precisely weighed dough size for xiao long bao
The xiao long baus are perfectly bite/mouthful size. The dough is semi-transparent enough to tease one with large volume of "soup" within each dumpling. The dough is also firm yet thin and silky smooth, and tough enough to never tear or break before you get your hands on the wonderful "soup" within the dumpling.

The xiao long bao itself merits 2 stars. The other dishes we tried were executed well with no major flaws - simple and clean tasting, but not headline grabbing - typical of classic Shanghai style cuisine, unlike other regional Chinese cuisine.

Appetizer - Peanuts with seaweed
Appetizer - Lotus root salad
Shrimp & pork dumpling
Noodle soup with fried pork chop
Dry noodles with mushroom & mince meat - very umami
Even the desserts (mango pudding & almong tofu) and drinks (sweet and sour prune drink) were wonderful. Our 15 minute queue was worth the wait, particularly when the queue is looking more like a 45 minute one as we leave the place fully satisfied, we forgot our order of chicken soup had failed to arrive!

Rating for Cheap Eats: 15/20

By Gastronomic G.

Rating explained:
Scores 18 to 20 = *** (3 stars) = World class and close to perfection
Scores 16 to <18 = ** (2 stars) = An exceptional and special dining experience
Scores 15 to <16 = * (1 star) = Very good to great dining experience
Scores 13 to <15 = Good but not memorable
Scores 10 to <13 = Acceptable
Scores <10 = Are you sure you want to eat here?