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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

November 16, 2010 at 6:00 AM

Din Tai Fung: open, finally!

The text message arrived after several rounds of steamed dumplings had been ordered and consumed: “Totally worth the hype!” wrote a pal, who just happened to be at Lincoln Square when Din Tai Fung quietly opened for business Saturday evening at 5:30. It didn’t stay quiet for long. On Sunday, the wait topped out at three hours. No surprise, as rabid fans of this Taiwan-based dumpling chain had been counting the hours for months.

The view from the (sky)bridge: Din Tai Fung, now open at Lincoln Square, in Bellevue.

But come on! Three hours? No offense to the xiao long bao aficionados who’d been pining for a taste of the “real deal” since word came down that DTF planned to open in Bellevue, but I wouldn’t wait that long to get into the French Laundry. Instead, I showed up Monday, just after the lunch rush, when the wait, I was told, was 40 minutes.

Worth the wait? That’s for me to know, and you to find out.

In fact, we were seated in less than a half-hour, and the lovely hostesses did a fine job of keeping track of customers and handing out menus in the interim. (Here, you order ahead, while you wait.) Service was extremely helpful throughout my visit. And while there were glitches, they were easily forgiven what with the lines-out-the-door from the get-go.

OK, girls, say it with a smile: “Your table will be ready in . . . HOW LONG?”

Too bad they were out of juicy pork and crab dumplings. Next time.

As promised, there was a veritable army of dumpling-makers on hand at the restaurant entrance, working on their repetitive-stress-injury moves and providing an enormous amount of entertainment for those of us who love eat — and make — dumplings.

Once seated, it took no time at all until big bamboo steamers full of dumplings arrived, along with directions on how to eat those xiao long bao (put dumpling on spoon, poke hole in dumpling, carefully suck out juice, add ginger and soy), which were certainly the lightest soup dumplings (aka “juicy dumplings”) I’ve ever eaten.

Juicy pork dumplings (left). And at right, starting at 12 o’clock (and going clockwise): pork buns, juicy pork dumplings, sauteed spinach with garlic, vegetarian dumplings.

For now, Din Tai Fung is open weekdays from 11 a.m. till 10 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m., but eventually they intend to stay open till 3 a.m. — the better to satiate the apres-last-call crowd. And, in the name of sopping up their excesses, may I suggest those wee-hour diners consider ordering a plate (or two) of these?

Pork fried noodles (left) and shrimp and pork wontons with spicy sauce (do not miss those!).

Comments | More in New Restaurants | Topics: Chinese Food

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