Jen has always raved about Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese franchise that specializes in delicious dumplings, soup dumplings, and wontons. The chain has spots all over the world and over the West Coast including several in the Bay Area. After much talk, Jen and I decided to try out the Din Tai Fung in San Jose, CA. Although there was a long wait, the food definitely did not disappoint.
Location and Wait
Din Tai Fung San Jose is located in Valley Fair Mall, across from Santana Row. Parking can be difficult during the afternoon and weekends. Luckily Jen and I had planned to explore the area and arrived early when the parking lot was mostly empty. We put our name on this shortly before noon and were told the wait time was going to be roughly 1.5-2 hours. Well the estimate was a bit short as we ended waiting almost 2.5 hours before finally getting a table. There was a constant crowd outside the spot waiting for their turn for some delicious dumplings. Din Tai Fung uses a text based system, notifying you for a second check-in. After the second check-in it should take another 10-15 minutes before getting seated. The staff was extremely organized and their system was extremely efficient.
The Menu and Ordering
There is a “look book” style menu where there were pictures of most of their ideas. To order, you then fill out a slip which is given to the waiter/waitress. The look book menu was extremely helpful, but also increased the anticipation. For first timers, I would definitely take advantage of the look book and compare them with online reviews. The staff is wonderful and there is no pressure to order quickly.
Jen and I ordered 4 dishes during our visit. We had the Soup Dumplings(Xiao Long Bao), Shrimp and Pork Dumplings(Sui Mai), Shrimp and Pork Wontons in Spicy Sauce, and Braised Beef Noodle Soup. This might sound like a lot of food, but the Dumplings came with only 6 pieces per orders. The order of wontons came with 10-12 and the Braised Beef Noodle Soup was about a one person serving.
The dumplings were delicious but nothing special. They were the typical savory Chinese dumplings and were served with a side of vinegar. The dumplings were steamed to perfection and the wrapping remained firm yet soft. The meat was pipping hot on the first bites so make sure to take your time. I know, its rather difficult to resist the urge to chow down the whole order of dumplings.
The star of my visit to Din Tai Fung was their Shrimp and Pork Wontons in Chili Sauce. It was a mixture of hrimp and kurobata pork for the filling, dressed over a healthy dose of their signature chili sauce. The chili sauce was mild in heat but had a sweet kick at the end that hit the spot for me. The wontons were cooked to perfection, allowing their skin to absorb hints of the delicious sauce. This dish is a must order for me and suggested by Jen.
The final dish we had was a braised beef noodle soup. The broth was rather mild and featured a combination of Chinese herbs with a beef based stock. The noodles were straight flour noodles, similar to what you would find in Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. On the other hand, while the broth and noodles were solid, the braised beef was utterly delicious. The beef was extremely tender and the meat fell apart with each bite. Thankfully, there were several sizable chunks of beef in our bowl of noodles. Overall, this dish shares many similarities with Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup and follows the Franchise’s Taiwanese roots.
My experience at Din Tai Fung San Jose was wonderful. Even though lines with insanely long lines, the delicious food and friendly staff made it worth while. Jen and I thoroughly enjoyed the food and we are definitely looking to come back with our families at a later date. I would definitely order the wontons in spicy sauce while passing on the soup dumplings. While the food is a tad bit on the pricier side( Our total Bill was almost $50) it is more or less inline with what a semi-fancy meal would cost you in the Bay Area. Be sure to give this place a try and let me know your thoughts.
Pro Tip: be sure to put your name on the list as soon as you get to the mall so you can spend a sizable chunk of the wait exploring the large mall or Santana Row across the street.