Dumpling heaven in heart of Shinjuku
You have to eat at Din Tai Fung.
That was a tip recently given to me prior to a trip to Taipei.
The words of wisdom came from a friend who, despite being a vegetarian, still craves the pork soup dumplings at this famous Taiwanese restaurant.
Per his recommendation, I ended up eating Din Tai Fung - three times in 24 hours to be exact.
Luckily, the love-at-first-taste relationship did not have to end there, as I was excited to find the one-time New York Times Top-10 Restaurant in the World had made its way to Japan.
In fact, you can find one of its many locations right in the heart of Shinjuku. On the southeast side of Shinjuku Station you’ll spot the Takashimaya building. Simply head to its 12th floor to enjoy a taste of Taiwan.
This place is known for their xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings. These little balls of joy are each handmade – stuffed with meat (or veggies) and folded 18 times at the top to form a perfect seal, before being steamed to perfection.
The entire process can be seen, as the workers are put on display in front of a window. Watching them craft the food will give you even more appreciation for the consistency of each dumpling.
There are many tasty options on the menu, but the first, and maybe best, you should try is the standard pork soup dumpling. Steamed, minced pork and broth inside a paper thin dumpling – it’s simple. The taste is anything but. Use this as the gateway-dumpling as you binge on the best Taiwan has to offer.
The dumplings typically come in groups of four ($6) or six ($9), which makes it easy to get a good mix and try some unique combinations with your dining party. The prices will vary depending on which four or six pack you get.
Other delicious soup dumplings include: pork with crab and truffle with pork. If the pork dumpling is No. 1, the spicy shrimp and pork wontons would be a close No. 2. Both are must-tries.
Some standard, less adventurous menu items include fried rice, soup and vegetables. Dessert offers mostly red bean items, including xiaolongbao, bun and rice cake.
Ordering is very easy, as they have all-English menus with plenty of pictures.
As there is an art to making the dumplings, there is also an art to eating them. After dipping one into your handmade soy-vinegar-ginger mixture, you place it on your spoon and puncture the thin casing with your chopsticks. The hole will allow the hot insides to cool a bit before you blissfully dump the whole thing in your mouth.
If you plan on eating yourself into a food coma, make sure to get there well before you actually want to eat. Wait times can get pretty long (30-60 min.), especially around lunch and dinner.
They don’t take reservations, and the only way to get your name on the waiting list is to sit patiently on a long wooden bench outside the restaurant. The line may be long, but it’s only further confirmation of just how tasty the food really is.
DIN TAI FUNG
5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 151-8580
Hours: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
1-6-31 Minami Saiwai Nishi-ku Yokohamashi 220-8601
Hours: 11 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.
2-39-3 Akebono-cho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo 190-8507
Hours: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
1-1-1 Chuo Aoba-ku Sendai-shi,Miyagi 980-8487
(3F,S-PAL SENDAI East Building)
Hours: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.