From Seattle: Din Tai Fung

When I arrived in Seattle this evening, I was hungry and rumpled in the way that only eight hours in a Minivan can make you.

I wanted a casual yet entertaining meal, so I decided to visit Din Tai Fung, a beloved multinational chain in the Pacific Place mall in downtown Seattle. Din Tai Fung is basically the Dim Sum version of PF Changs, and it dominates the Pacific Rim with locations in Asia, Australia, Washington, California and also Dubai.

The restaurant was cavernous and crowded, a shocking contrast to the deserted mall in which it resides. Part of the kitchen juts into the mall so you can watch dumplings be crafted through large windows, a smart gimmick to lure hungry shoppers:

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You order by filling out a snazzy spreadsheet-style order form. I have a particular weakness for this sort of ordering system:

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I sampled most of the menu, beginning with the signature Pork XiaoLongBao—pork soup miraculously tucked into a steamed dumpling. Trying to bite these in half is… risky, and explosive:

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I also enjoyed dumpling stuffed with pork and rice. Pairing starch with starch is a risky business, but I was pleased with the result:

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The shrimp and pork wontons were probably the best thing I ate:

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And the buns—I tried the vegetable and sweet sesame varieties—were pleasantly and unusually spongey. The vegetable filling was bland. The sweet sesame paste had all the charm of tahini, and an unconventional texture.

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The fried green beans: also tasty.

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My conclusions: this place is better than PF Changs, and a convenient way to experience Dim Sum. If you’re looking for a meal in a mall, it would be hard to do much better.

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