Din Tai Fung in Taipei snagged the number one spot in The Daily Meal’s countdown of the “101 Best Restaurants in Asia of 2013.” Daily Meal Editorial Director Colman Andrews knew the decision would be controversial because the xiaolongbao depot is an international chain, but said, “ultimately we chose a place best-known for doing one thing absolutely perfectly.” We figured the win would cause a stir among Shanghaiers, who’ve had mixed opinions about the Shanghai outlet.
Some Shanghai old-timers view the Din Tai Fung’s XLB as Disneyfied bastardizations of their staple while many laowai would probably swallow condoms filled with DTF’s dumplings to smuggle back to their home countries. Then there are those who think it’s simply overrated.
I’ve never been to the Taipei Din Tai Fung so I can’t say much about it. I do think many critics of the Shanghai DTF have gotten so outraged at the publicity the Taiwan chain is getting for doing Shanghai food that they’ve overlooked that the actual product is pretty damn tasty. The bao are perfectly pleated and light as a cloud but meaty and creamy at the same time. And it’s refreshing to eat at a xiaolongbao place that’s polished (not a rathole) and where the servers treat you like a customer instead of a cockroach that wandered in. DTF’s also managed to replicate this experience across Asia, or at least to the ones I’ve been to in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur.
That being said, there’s undeniably too much Din Tai Fung xiaolong-ballwashing in Shanghai. It’s almost gotten to the point where DTF is the first restaurant that springs to mind when people think xiaolongbao in Shanghai, when they should really be thinking of even tastier/cheaper Shanghai standbys like Jia Jia Tang Bao, Nanxiang, and Fu Chun. But what are your reactions to the win, Shanghaiers, er, English-reading Shanghaiers?
It should be pointed out that none of the seven Shanghai restaurants that made the Daily Meal’s countdown serve xiaolongbao, hairy crab, or Chinese food at all for that matter.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].