Our motto here at the Daily Planet is “Local News for Global Citizens,” but sometimes we get things backwards, and send a local citizen to cover a global story. Like when The Daily Meal announced their 2013 list of the 101 Best Restaurants in Asia. The #1 restaurant on the list is Din Tai Fung, a Taiwan-based chain with branches in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, and Thailand.
(By the way, people who love fine dining or journalism should never see how these “best” lists get created. It is interesting to note that the top restaurant on The Daily Meal’s list of 101 Best Restaurants in Asia didn’t even make the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants organized by Restaurant magazine, while the restaurant that topped the Asia’s 50 Best list, Narisawa of Tokyo, didn’t rank in The Daily Meal’s top 101.)
So when I learned that Jim Harkness, president of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy was headed to Beijing on a work trip, I asked him if he could pay a visit to the local branch of the award-winning restaurant.
Turns out that Jim, who travels to China regularly, was already familiar with Din Tai Fung. “I know it well. Definitely more a Fodor’s type selection than either Michelin or Rough Guide: not super-high end, but also not a hole in the wall by any means.”
“The baozi (steamed buns or dumplings) are as good as ever,” Jim reported back from Beijing, “but I would say they are slipping a little in the noodle department, and whereas they used to have a very small, simple menu of noodles and baozi, they’ve diversified with very mixed results. High end new ingredients like shark’s fin and goose liver, and various stir-fried dishes that just aren’t their forte.
“Their signature dish, known as ‘soup dumplings’ tangbao, because the filling is bathed in a delicious pork broth that can scald the tongue or stain the shirt front of the unsuspecting patron. With vinegar and ginger for dipping.