Start your soup-slurping engines! The new Din Tai Fung restaurant is set to open at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, at University Village. The ribbon-cutting follows months (if not years) of customers waiting for a Seattle branch of the global chain that’s particularly known for its “xiao long bao” soup dumplings. It’ll be one of just a handful of U.S. outlets — there’s one in Bellevue and three in Southern California.
Managing partner David Wasielewski, who opened the Bellevue Din Tai Fung in 2010 to 3-hour-long lines, said the Seattle branch will have a bar about twice the size of the one in the Bellevue store, and has a bigger kitchen. Overall, the space is more than 1,000 square feet larger than the already-sizable 7,000-square-foot store in Bellevue’s Lincoln Square. It’ll seat 220 to 230 people. Look for the same sort of “viewing window” to see workers neatly pleating the dumplings, and a long menu that also includes shu mai, noodles, vegetables, and other specialties. The decor will be similarly sleek, though not identical.
I asked Wasielewski if the extreme crowds surrounding the Bellevue store — they’ve eased, but even a few months back, I was told to expect a 90-minute wait for weekend brunch — had taught him anything about how to handle Seattle’s expected dumpling demand.
What’s helped a lot this past year, he said, is a new system allowing the restaurant workers to text customers when their tables are almost ready. “Both stores happen to be in high-volume, high-traffic malls, so people will be free to go do some shopping, do some banking, do whatever they need to do and not feel like they’re stuck” if there’s a wait, he said.
“We’re going to try our best to work as fast as we can, to make the restaurant work as smoothly and efficiently as possible…” he said.
“Obviously, we’re not going to be perfect right off the bat, and I hope the public will recognize that, (but) we’re going to be as perfect as we can be.”
Can we expect still more Din Tai Fungs in the future?
“It took me a couple of years after Bellevue started to make me feel comfortable… to say we can expand to a second store,” Wasielewski said. “I don’t think it’ll take me that long this time around, but I don’t want to start thinking about store #3 until I feel comfortable that both stores are running very, very smoothly. It’s all about customer experience.”
Will you be heading out for soup dumplings on Sunday?