Saturday, June 22, 2013

Din Tai Fung - Kuala Lumpur

Din Tai Fung. 

If you have been following this blog, you would know that this is a Chinese restaurant originating in Taiwan. This is a Dim Sum Restaurant. I have blogged about the branches in Bangkok and Hong Kong. We were in Kuala Lumpur where Din Tai Fung has some 4 branches. We went to the branch at the Pavilion Mall located at Bukit Bintang, the dead centre of Kuala Lumpur.

Before delving into the joys of the food at Din Tai Fung, here is something to think about. Malaysia is multi ethnic and multi cultural with both factors playing a large role in politics. The Constitution declares Islam the state religion, while, protecting freedom of religion. Without making any value judgement, Islam forbids the consumption of Pork and Alcohol. Despite Islam being the state religion, getting alcohol in Malaysia is no problem. Pork is not as widely available nor is it served in all restaurants. Restaurants, shops and food outlets have prominent signs stating that they are `Non Halal’ thereby indicating that alcohol and/or pork may be served. I did not feel that there was any stigma of any kind in eating pork or drinking alcohol. In fact, one of the most popular malls is the magnificent Pavilion Mall where there are several bars, many of which are open onto the public thoroughfare. No one has a problem. Something, we puritanical, or, depending how charitable you are, hypocritical, Indians should think about.

Din Tai Fung restaurants are similar in concept and decor. At the entrance you have a large glassed enclosure where masked and hair netted chefs are busy making the signature Xiao Long Bao dumplings. One chef rolls out the small dough balls into small circles, much like an Indian `Puri’. Another chef places the meat filling on the rolled out dough, and a third chef seals the seams and creates the finished dumpling. The fourth chef lines steaming baskets with a cloth and places dumplings inside ready to be steamed on order. It is fascinating to watch.

This is the steaming table where the buns are steamed

At the entrance of the restaurant is a hostess who hands you a menu, a clipboard with an ordering sheet clipped on it and a pencil. This is after she has filled in the number of guests on the table as well as a serial number on the sheet. While you wait, you are expected to fill in the sheet with your order. A display on the wall shows the number which corresponds to you sheet. Once your number is displayed you hand over the order sheet and take your table. A waitress then checks your order and soon, the food is flying to your table.

The clipboards in the foreground 

Sharpened pencils to give out to waiting diners

A sharpner to keep the pencils `pointy'.
The order sheet given with the clipboard

Close up

The table has a few condiments. Vinegar is the unusual one. This is used to douse the julienned ginger that arrives.

The finely sliced ginger doused with the vinegar

First to arrive was the famous Drunken Chicken. This is a cold dish which comprises of a poached chicken breast. This poaching is a typically Chinese technique. The chicken is sliced and doused with a Chinese Shaoshing Wine. Simple, cold and delicious.

Drunken Chicken

Next, came the famous Xiao Long Bao a delicious dumpling filled with Pork and a rich Pork stock. You pick this up carefully so as to not break the skin and let the liquid out. Add some shredded ginger and vinegar and pop the whole thing into your mouth. You pray that you will not be burned by the hot stock in the dumpling, when your mouth fills with the savoury stock. Then the sharp ginger and sour vinegar jump in to cut the richness. It is a delightful sensation and very tasty.

Xiao Long Bao

We had ordered two soups. HRH the Queen of Kutch had ordered a Glass Noodle Soup with Tofu and Pork Sausage. This was a clear soup with a great broth. The Pork Sausage was extremely tasty. I ordered a Hot and Sour Soup, which turned up with loads of Chilli Oil and a Pepper Shaker for me to add Pepper as I wanted. You know what? No one asks you `Veg’ or `Non Veg’ when you order the soup. Superb soup.

Glass Noodle Soup with Tofu and Pork Sausage

Hot Sour Soup

The last two dishes ordered were the obligatory Kailan with Oyster Sauce and to balance the vegetable a Pork Cutlet. The Kailan was as expected. Green, hot and doused with the sauce. The Pork Chop was savoury and went well with the Kailan.

Kailan with Oyster Sauce

Pork Cutlet

All this was washed down with two Tiger Beers.

The quality of food, in our collective opinion, exceeds the food available at Royal China as well as at Yauatcha [both in Mumbai]. The style of food is similar in as much as it falls within the overall `Dim Sum’ category. This is not fine dining, though the food quality most certainly is. This restaurant is just a notch above a fast food restaurant in terms of service. You place the order by writing it down yourself. You simply hand over your order to a passing waiter. The food is served to you by busboys. No restaurant managers mincing around. No one asks you if you are enjoying your meal, nothing. Food is served, plates cleared and then, you take your clipboard to the bill desk and pay the bill. Meal over and you are out. Brilliant. No talking, no chitchat no time wasting.

Also, lastly, have a look at the bill. It is 116 Malaysian Ringitt which is Indian Rupees 2,100/-  Try and have a good Chinese meal in that much money with two beers thrown in in Mumbai. By the way, if you want to get to a more `granular’ level as merchant bankers love to say, the two beers cost MR 27 which is Rs. 500/- or Rs 250/- a beer. Reasonable? Who says India is cheap?

An excellent meal. Din Tai Fung is really a good restaurant. You must visit a branch.  

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