On the previous night prior to the concert, we walked past the entrance to Ding Tai Fong by coincidence; we’ve dined at the restaurant chain when we were in Taiwan earlier in the year, and given that we haven’t yet found any eateries in New Zealand that could even come close to rivalling the taste we grew up with in Taiwan, we were extremely keen in seeing whether DTF, sitting in the middle of Sydney, would be able to surprise us… and the fact that DTF is supposedly famous for their consistently tasty xiao long bao all across the world was also something we’d like to experience for ourselves.
As we were also meeting wifey’s friend Lynn at DTF, we were able to explore more of the menu than we would have otherwise. I would have to say that, though the service was efficient and the restaurant design was thoughtful, we were not overly impressed with the food. Examples of thoughtful design and service included the jacket covers they gave us and bag holders to place and cover our things so they wouldn’t get dirtied by a chopstick-to-mouth malfunction, as well as limiting the meal-last-night-smell when you wear the same set of clothes later on. But most people come here for the food, and our expectation was already high from our experience with DTF’s chainstores in Taiwan; as we were keen to compare, we ordered most of the dishes that we’ve already tried in Taiwan previously, and the rest were just things we thought looked or sounded tasty from the menu. Lets dig in…
Hot and sour soup – this was far from what we had tasted in Taiwan. It was barely spicy, and the sourness was bland. We expected to taste the flavor within the chilli oil with a smokey twang of sourness embedded within the soup, but instead we found a cousin that was far removed from the soup family and boring to boot.
Xiao long bao, or pork dumplings. This was the main dish we came here for, and though we were slightly disappointed with the taste of the filling and the soup within, it was still very nice considering we weren’t sitting in Taiwan. The thin layer of dough and juicy filling is something I’ve not yet found a contender for in New Zealand, and to have it in Sydney is a pleasant surprise. I like the fog on the photo because it showed how much of a hurry I was in to finish taking it, so I can start eating!
I ordered this dish for myself as I was familiar with the portion sizes of DTF, and it offered substance to the meal. As for the taste, it was quite average. The pork cutlet wasn’t bad, nor was it too oily or salty. However it didn’t impress me and I’m sure lots of other places could’ve done a better job. The noodles themselves were a chewy, which I liked for the the dry type of noodle dish.
Nice and fresh cucumbers… however the flavor was lacking. The chilli oil was almost bland and although we felt good about having a bit of green in our meal, stir-fried seasonable vegetables of some sort would’ve tasted a lot better.
This was the highlight of the meal; both me and wifey couldn’t get enough of this! However to preserve our dignity in front of wifey’s friend, we ate slowly but thoroughly. The chicken was well marinated, the pieces tender, and you could barely taste the chinese white wine used for flavor – some people like their drunken chicken to have soaked in the Chinese white wine, but I prefer the taste of alcohol to remain light to the taste of the chilled chicken pieces. It was a treat and we’d order this dish again if we visited DTF in the future.
This was another dish we thought would’ve been good, but the wontons were pretty average. It tasted similar to the pork dumplings, except the skin was thicker. The chilli oil was a touch spicy, mostly salty, and not aromatic at all. It was another disappointment sadly.
In the end, we were even less impressed with the final bill of $71.30. For 7 dishes (including two lots of xiao long bao) this was a tad expensive… and given our general impression, one we would rather not repeat any time soon. Though we did find something tasty like the drunken chicken, it wasn’t worth the effort of waiting 20 minutes to get a table. I got used to waiting in a queue while travelling in Taiwan because you knew food that the restaurant with a lot of queues served was worth waiting for… but at DTF, we just don’t have enough incentive to do so. Me and wifey were glad we had tried the DTF in Taiwan, because the branches over there really lives up to the expectations of excellent food that they advertise over their website and around their restaurant.
After our lunch, Lynn played tour guide for us and took us around the CBD:
We saw a shiny building and thought – must get a picture of that! (puts on tourist hat)
We also visited the Queen Victoria building, which was a shopping complex but better known as a very well-perserved piece of history; wifey had a wonderful time being shutter happy:
Much of the building has been outlined with decorative designs that brings my imagination back to the olden days of top hats and horse carts. (swaps tourist hat with a top hat)
Wifey really liked the old fashioned clocks. They have been preserved really well and even as someone who doesn’t normally wonder in museums or look at old stuff, I could tell the craftsmanship and detailed work that went into producing them; that alone was impressive for me.
It was really curious to see stained glass in a non-church setting… a quick search about the Queen Victoria building revealed that this building was actually a project commissioned in the late 1800′s to employ out-of-work craftsmen, which included stained window artists. Very nice! And the fact that I could get really close to look at the stained glass itself as opposed to craning my neck to look at patterns sitting atop a high window in a church made for a different experience as well ^_^
It was in here that I saw the largest models / hobby shop to date (their website here ). Two floors of models, crafts, remote controlled and anime-related goodness. Didn’t take any pictures and didn’t buy anything… but man! If I had a man cave needed filling, this would be a top candidate for a shopping trip!
After a brief rest, we met up with my friends, Tom and Carolyn, for some good food and drinks at Bel Mondo. Check out some photos and a review of what we enjoyed here!
See my previous posts on our Australia trip here:
Australia – Franklin’s noms @ Le monde cafe; Bowl Bar Oiden
Australia trip – Sightseeing Sydney
Prices : I don’t recall exact prices, however for the pork dumplings it was around $15 per basket of 10; given the fact that I can easily devour one dumpling with just a mouthful, the bill quickly adds up. For people with smaller appetite, this is a decent place to sample Chinese cuisine. The portion size of each dish is actually quite small despite their price, so those with healthy appetites should probably order at least one dish of carbs i.e. noodles or rice. Online reviews say good things about their cold drinks, so it might be good to order one of those too. As me and wifey have tasted what we consider the authentic taste in Taiwan, we didn’t think too much of DTF in Sydney; but for those yet to travel to Asia, this is definitely a good teaser of what you can do better in Asia!