For the uninitiated, the sight of 10 or so people encased in what seems like a hermetically sealed, glass-walled prison may be slightly disconcerting at first. Upon closer inspection though, the glass walls serve only as a screen, displaying the precision and artisanal care that Din Tai Fung's dumpling masters put into what you are soon to devour.
From the stacked, steaming bamboo baskets that greet you on the way through the door to the abrupt hospitality that says we know we're good — so hurry up, eat and leave, you will feel as though the bustling streets of Taipei are right outside the entire time.
For the regulars — particularly those that love to display their cultural prowess to the world — the opportunity to teach someone the ways of eating xiao long bao without losing the encased nectarous soup (or severely burning their mouth) is enough to allow a foodie to die happy.
While it is easy to be distracted by the perennial favourites, it's important to keep your mind (and stomach) open to options. The crispy chicken with egg fried rice ($16.80), spicy shrimp and pork wonton ($11.80 for six) and the simple water spinach with garlic ($13.80) are unmissable additions to your table. Emporium also have a limited edition, truffle xiao long bao ($4.80 each) that is not to be missed. You only need one — maybe two — but they're an impressive reminder of why truffles are a delicacy.
All the usual liquids are on the menu, but if you're feeling like a refreshing palate cleanser, one can't go past the lychee mint freeze. And if, after all this, you find yourself wanting more, the golden lava mini buns — a.k.a. custard buns — are a perfect finish ($2.50 each). The mango custard with fresh mango ($8.80) is slightly odd but moreish, and definitely worth a try if you have an inclination for custard.
If you're yet to step over the threshold of this Taiwanese native, it's time you did. You can even order your meal while you wait for that elusive table — just find yourself a clipboard and menu on the podium at the door and place your order on the checkbox menu form. Then, through the magic that is Din Tai Fung, your meal will likely arrive at your table at the same time you do.