Prepare for a bun fight: Din Tai Fung, Central Park. Photo: Edwina Pickles
I don't expect an argument to break out at Din Tai Fung. But coloured dumplings can divide the best of friends and it's a cracker of a brawl. The culprit? A bamboo steamer basket containing seven ''dumpling gems'' in unexpected flavours and colours of seafood (pink), cheese (yellow), bolognese (red) and garlic (blue).
''Dibs on the red,'' Archie says.
''I'm having the yellow,'' Mitchell says. ''I'm having the pink,'' Lulu says. ''But I want the pink,'' whines Lily, the youngest, who's not fast enough. ''Why don't you have the green, Lily?'' mum Alissa pleads trying to defuse the situation. ''I don't want the green. I want the pink!'' she cries. I ask Lulu if she'll let Lily have the pink and have the red instead but possession being 9/10 of the law she's already stuffed it in her gob. There are tears.
We've come to the new Din Tai Fung at Central Park for a leisurely Sunday lunch. It is the latest addition to the Taiwanese dumpling chain's empire. The attractive space boasts huge floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Broadway, blonde wood tables with chairs painted aqua and pillar-box red and brightly coloured bicycle-wheel frames mounted over the windows.
Wintry sunlight floods through the glass and casts a warm glow over our table. We're early for lunch but the restaurant fills quickly. Staff are wired for communication, you write your order on sheets provided on the tables, and service is brisk and efficient.
Ignoring the ruckus at our table, we order a bunch of other dishes including battered calamari, green beans with minced pork (a huge and unexpected hit, being vegetables and all), and braised beef noodle soup - all of which are hungrily devoured.
We also order some of the regular dumplings - the soupy, pork-filled xiao long bao for which Din Tai Fung is deservedly famous. They've been anointed best dumplings in Sydney on more than one occasion and I'd have to agree. We love watching the nimble-fingered dumpling makers through the viewing window as they deftly pull and pleat the precise little parcels. We add two special dumplings with pork and black truffle (a mixed cultural culinary metaphor that's surprisingly good), which we're careful to position at the grown-up end of the table.
The gems are a newish addition to the Din Tai Fung menus and I can't say I'm a huge fan; compared with the originals they just feel wrong. Acquiescing to the rules (and the tears) of supply and demand, we order a second round, but I manage to sample only the orange one - it tastes like a typical Chinese sweetcorn soup - before the hordes descend again. No matter, I'll stick to the originals.
DO … give the gems a try, you might be surprised.
DON'T … forget to try the noodle soups.
DISH … xiao long bao - the original and the best.
VIBE … fun, fast, bright and breezy dumpling house.
- 02 8072 9427
- Cuisine - Taiwanese
- Prices - Dumplings and buns $2.80-$17.80; appetisers $6.80-$10.80; soups, rice and noodle dishes $6.80-$16.80; vegetables $15.80-$22.80; desserts $2.20-$11.80.
- Features - Cheap and cheerful, Family friendly
- Opening Hours - Daily 11.30am-2.30pm; Sun-Wed 5pm-8.30pm; Thurs-Sat 5pm-9pm
- Author - Sally Webb