Weekend Musings (July 17th, 2010)


Hey everyone, happy weekend!

I got quite a lot of stuff to unload today and so let’s get cracking!

Din Tai Fung — Coming To a Location Near Us!

OMG! OMG!

I can’t believe it when etranger alerted us to the news that the legendary Din Tai Fung restaurant is opening in a location near us!

Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung (credit: pacejmiller.wordpress.com)

Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung (credit: pacejmiller.wordpress.com)

Look at that! The thinness of the skin … the pleats. Amazing huh? Click here to read pacejmiller’s post about Din Tai Fung.

For those of you who don’t know, Din Tai Fung is known within the Chinese culinary circles as the king of Xiao Long Bao. They were even once rated as one of the Top 10 Gourmet restaurants by the New York Times (that was back in 1993). Even though they originated from Taiwan, today they have restaurants all over Asia including Taiwan, Japan, China, Singapore, Korea, US, Malaysia and Australia.

Until now the closest one to us is in Los Angeles. All other locations requires flying over the pond called the Pacific Ocean.

The good news is that they are opening a restaurant near us! Or should I say … “near” us. They are opening it in Bellevue, WA. It is still quite near right? Here is the news that etranger alerted us to. They are opening in Fall this year. No dates mentioned yet.

Any of you crazy enough to take a long drive to Bellevue? Come on, it is only a 3 hour drive (with a potentially 2 hour border wait. LOL!). When they open, I am gonna go. I like to see if anyone would like to come along too. You know, we can organize a Xiao Long Bao brigade, form a convoy and invade Bellevue together.

I am thinking what a change. We Vancouverites always pity the the Washingtonians who comes up to Canada for Chinese food. With Din Tai Fung opening in the Seattle area, they can thumb their noses on us for once. πŸ™‚

Here … enjoy this video of the Din Tai Fung in LA.

Finally Located Tenku Bakudanyaki

It was like playing hide and seek with Tenku Bakudanyaki. Tenku along with Fumisen and Shoryumen are the only three food trucks operating in Richmond (OK discounting the ones in the Richmond Night Market). Here is my blog post about them: Tenku Bakudanyaki and Fumisen+Shoryumen.

A while ago, they announced that they are relocating to new site. It was to a god-forsaken industrial part of Richmond. Ed even blogged about their new location (see here).

When I first heard that they were moving, I was puzzled why they moved from an established location to an industrial area. So, I busy-body went and ask them and they gave me the party-line that it is the better location and that they have shelter and customers can eat indoors. I think they were forced out of the location between Elmbridge and Gilbert.

About three weeks ago, I went to the location in the industrial zone but I couldn’t find them! I thought that they had closed considering how lousy the location was. I thought that was the last of them. I know that the cities in Metro Vancouver does not make it easy for street food to operate.

Last week, a friend told me they are still alive and kicking. They had quietly moved to a new location in Charles Street. I had never heard of Charles St in Richmond but a quick check on Google Map showed that it is just behind the River Rock Casino and Bridgeport Skytrain Station.

There you go, the familiar food trucks are there in a fenced up lot. I think they are operating because there is a sign outside the area — just that they are closed for the day or something. I think this location is much better than the original location.

Talking About Food Carts

As you already know, the City of Vancouver has started a pilot project to introduce street food carts in various locations in the city. Going over the list of food carts selected by way of a lottery, I am not too excited with most of the food carts.

I was speaking to a person who had applied for the food carts. There were complaints that the lottery system is opened to abuse. There were people who got all their family and relatives to put in multiple applications in the hope that, well, they strike lottery.

In all, I find most of the carts selected are unimaginative and that a lone will cause the failure of the program. There is even one cart that sells, of all things … lemonade! Puh-leez!!!

Anyway, I had created a Google Map of all the food cart locations. Here it is:

The embedded Google Map above is a bit klunky toΒ maneuver around. Use this link instead, it is much easier to navigate.

Soccer – Worst Dives of All Time

OK, this is off topic but I thought it is so funny that I want to share this with you all. All in line with the recently concluded World Cup:

Alright … that’s it for today. Have a good weekend!

46 thoughts on “Weekend Musings (July 17th, 2010)

    • Hi etranger: Reading the article, I think DTF would be a madhouse once they throw open their doors. With the hordes of bargain hunters swamping the state of Washington this Good Friday, I think there is almost zero change for me to snag a table let alone have a nice meal. LOL! I heard over the radio yesterday that border crossing from Canada to US is the worse in 15 years. Yesterday it was 4 hours long at the border. Yikes! Ben

  1. I went looking for Din Tai Fung in Bellevue a few days ago and didn’t see anything street front. I think it is inside a vertical mall called Lincoln Square, across the street from Bellevue Square. For anyone coming down to shop the Black Friday sales, this is a great location. After you eat and shop, you can even go bowling on the third floor of this mall, or take in a comedy show or game of pool.

    ANYWAY
    I found a reference on Yelp to the Chinese website. The DTF USA website does not give any specific details about the Bellevue location, but the Chinese site does:

    Seattle branch will be opened on 11/82010-10-26
    700 Bellevue Way NE, Ste. 280, Bellevue, WA 98004 (425)698-1095

    http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/en/index.asp

    Thought you’d like to know.

    • Hi etranger: Glad to read of the update of DTF. Yeah, we might center our shopping this time in Belleuve and hope that by Thanksgiving DTF will have been opened by then. BTW, what is the best way to get all the flyers for Black Friday. Our shopping is normally unplanned because we don’t know where to look for flyers. We just go to random places. Ben

      • There are a complete variety of stores right around Bellevue so you are in good shape. Fry’s Electronics is just south of I-90 (south end of Bellevue) which is handy, too. I can’t think of a Target anywhere close by, but there is a Best Buy on the far side of I-405 right in Bellevue.

        Here’s a good thread on Trip Advisor on how to shop Black Friday.

        http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60878-i74-k4020889-American_Thanksgiving_Q-Seattle_Washington.html

        We have sales on the day after Christmas too, although the phrase “Boxing Day” means nothing. Literally, no one except Canadians or readers of British children’s literature would have ever heard it. Those sales are different, and are clearing out existing merchandise. Black Friday is all new merchandise.

        Have fun, and I wish you happy eating and shopping!

      • Awesome tips etranger. Wow, some people are real pro BF shoppers. Like the one who described his plan of attack. OMG! –>

        – Quote –
        Saving money on Black Friday is an endurance test and takes preplanning to do it right. Here’s the strategy used by most of the heavy duty bargain hunters I know:

        Get there on Thursday to get a copy of the Thanksgiving Day newspaper. All stores will be closed by 4pm, so there’s no shopping that day. You should make a reservation for dinner somewhere because most places will be closed.

        Online newspapers don’t cut it — you need the sales flyers. Get your computer out or a pen, paper and map. Read all the flyers, look for the BEST loss leaders you really want the next day. Write down everything you think looks good and the name of the store where it can be found. Map the stores so you can make a shopping plan.

        Stay at a hotel which has wifi, so you can go online and get the Black Friday deals the night before to save some trips. Amazon has some great ones, so don’t forget to check that even though they have no stores. Starting now, you can check what shipping prices are to Canada. Since you will be at a US IP address, you should be able to see the deals.

        After your possible midnight shopping, get a few hours sleep. Have a breakfast bag ready (fruit and granola bar to eat in line), because you won’t have time to stop for food.

        For the very best loss leaders like cameras, laptops and in-demand toys, plan to get in line by 4 am, maybe 5. The stores will be opening as early as 5am. If the best deals are at two stores, divide and conquer. Make sure your cell phone is charged so you can call your spouse at a different store in case you see an unadvertised deal that looks good.

        Put your purchases in the car. If you are driving an SUV or wagon that does not have an enclosed trunk, bring a blanket or totes to put your purchases in. If you have time , run them back to the hotel.

        By about noon or maybe one pm, you’ll be mostly done. The best deals end then. There will still be sales, but not the extreme deals.

        So start getting ready — Black Friday is coming! It isn’t for the shy crowd hating type, but if you approach it as a game you can get some really great deals and have a good time. Bring an ipod to pass the time in case of a long wait in line — and case the store to see if there is an alternate cash register that most people haven’t seen (like in the electronics department).

        Alternately, show up at your favorite stores around 10am and see what’s still available. The laptop and camera deals will most likely be gone, but you will have had a much more pleasant start to your day.

  2. Rae, it is not Vancouver. But you can take the train to Seattle and it is an easy bus ride to downtown Bellevue. There is also the Quick Shuttle, which only Canadians can take.

    Regarding Black Friday, you want to get here the day before to get the Thanksgiving Day newspaper. Also sign up online to the facebook, twitter, and email of the stores you are planning to go to. Lots of the sales are online the night before. They issue specials on social media. The online specials begin at midnight Eastern Time, and they are limited in quantity so stay in a hotel with good internet connection! Best time of the year to buy laptops or game consoles…

    Anyway, I will keep looking for the DTF date. I am sure their goal is to be open before the Christmas season begins on Black Friday!

    It is right near a major mall, by the way. Fry’s Electronics and a Best Buy are also close.

    • thanks for your good tips πŸ™‚ would surely go for XLB πŸ™‚

      I wish they are as good as the one in Shanghai and Taipei. πŸ™‚

      And, hope in the nearest future, they can open one here in Vancouver too. We seriously have alot of XLB fans here.

    • *gasp* Really?!? *gasp*

      Oh … you gotta let us know the exact opening date once they have a date confirmed. πŸ™‚ I hope they open before Thanksgiving because I am certainly gonna be there for some serious shopping on Black Friday. The Canadian dollar is technically on par with the US Dollar now. Ben

  3. Derek,OK OK,I will swing by and try your place again this week.Everybody deserves a second chance just in case my previous visit was an off day

    • We at PanDa Fresh Bakery would like to invite you to try our creations for yourself. What we thrive in is being creative with what we could do with our croissants, such as our Ice Cream Croissants which is adapted from a Japanese inspiration. We also have our new Mac+Cheese Croissant and we’re rolling out new ideas every 2 weeks. We also love feedback and suggestions if you ever have any.

  4. Reup sounds worth a shot, thanks for that. I saw Panda Fresh yesterday and wondered about it, deffo off the list now :-).

  5. I just tried the pulled pork barbeque sandwich from the food cart beside the Vancouver Art Gallery for lunch.It is genuine slow cooked pork that can melt in your mouth.I will try a new cart each day for lunch until I have tried them all and keep you posted

    • I tried the Re Up cart today as well. The choices are slim (other than the pulled pork sandwich, only beverages are really available), but the sandwich is good.

      I’ve also tried Panda Express or Panda Fresh or whatever the heck it’s called on Drake and Pacific. It’s two college kids sitting in a bus with an oven, baking frozen croissants that they didn’t make. $3 a croissant; more if you want it flavored or with ice cream. The whole idea just seems wrong.

      • I sincerely apologize that you didn’t enjoy you’re food from PanDa Fresh Bakery, let me just clarify the story a little. PanDa Fresh Bakery is run by 2 brothers from Richmond (one being me). The original idea was to be a dessert cart to complement Tenku Bakudanyaki, Fumisen Creative Sushi, and Shoryumen Noodle House in their Richmond Location. The lottery came and we happened to be one of the winners, but our idea had been all desserts. Up to today we’ve had some savoury options including Ham and Cheese, Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese, and more recently our Homemade Mac and Cheese Croissant. The reason these aren’t homemade (and we really wanted to do it) was time constraints. We wanted to baked small batches so that they are always fresh, but a homemade one would mean we could only do it in large batches once a day. Our specialty isn’t the croissants, but instead what we could do with it and how creative we could be with the fillings. We enjoy hearing feedback and take every one to heart. So if you had any suggestions or comments in general please contact us directly through facebook or twitter (@PanDaBakery) or come see us directly! We’re people pleasers and would like to make you happy again!

  6. The location is in Bellevue because the franchisee is from the Seattle area. You guys need to pool your loonies and set one up!

    From the article. Eastside refers to Bellevue, Redmond and the towns on the east side of Lake Washington.

    “So, what brings the vaunted dumpling house to the Eastside?

    It’s not a what, but a whom: franchisee David Wasielewski. A Taiwanese by birth, Waslielewski, 35, is a UW graduate with an MBA from Seattle University who moved here when he was in middle school — but not before he developed a taste for (and a love of) Din Tai Fung’s wondrous wares. For him and other native Taiwanese, he says, Din Tai Fung dumpling houses are the equivalent of McDonald’s — in that they’re ubiquitous and provide patrons with certain consistency in product and in service. Though unlike at Micky D’s, “the beauty of this product is that everything’s freshly handmade when it’s ordered. It’s home comfort-food, and I think the people in the Northwest ought to be able to experience what I and many Taiwanese have had the luxury of experiencing: good, healthy, authentic dumplings,” most of which are steamed rather than deep-fried or pan-fried.”

  7. I haven’t written before but I have enjoyed your blog for a few months now. Keep up the great work!

    Have you ever tried the XLB at Tasty Village in Burnaby? It is at the intersection of Willingdon and Moscrop in a tiny strip mall with limited parking. We really enjoy their Shanghai dim sum. They also have a very nice dinner menu with items such as Rock Cod with pine nuts, braised pork hock, etc. It is very convenient for us Burnaby residents. It does get full fairly quickly so it is good to arrive by 11:30 AM on the weekends and making a reservation for dinner is a good idea.

  8. Oh man, I just got back from Shanghai. Unfortunately only had one full day to spend there and was at the expo for most of it. We did try a xiao long bao place but it was pretty bad. I think I had really high expectations, and also I probably didn’t go to the “right” place to try it. I wish I had known about Din Tai Fung before I left for China 😦

    I heard that Lin on Broadway is supposed to be really good, so maybe I’ll check that out!

    Anyone know the hours for Tenku?

    • Lin’s xiao-lun-bao is pretty good because of its super thin skin…flavor wise is a bit off…I like the skin from Lin’s, meat flavor from Dinesty, and the juice from Long’s…(yes I am dreaming…lol)…if all three combined…it’ll be SUPERB!!! hahahah Anyways, Lin’s deep fried fish-tofu is yummy too!

  9. I must say, Din Tai Fung xiao-lun-bao are one of the better ones, but personally…I think it’s over-rated…However, I am willing to drive 3 hours to try once they open in Washington…anything for xiao-lun-bao!!!

  10. It is very likely that DTF will open a store in Vancouver.
    I think they already have stores in Tokyo, and LA. There are already lots of XLB competition in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and yet DTF still opened stores in those places and compete successfully. The idea that they will not open a store in Vancouver because of competition is unfounded.

    DTF have a few locations in Shanghai, including Yuyuan Gardens and the trendy Xintiandi location. From what I could see, they have long lineups and the local people there regard XLB as a delicacy. Also, the people are willing to pay $ for good services, and DTF can deliver on good services, even in competitive Shanghai, almost all restaurants provide superb services.
    Interestingly, Chinese restaurants in China/Taiwan deliver better services than Chinese restaurants than in Vancouver.

    • I’m guessing that the issue/obstacle in having a Din Tai Fung location here in Vancouver is the money, i.e. are there people willing to fork over the money to be the master franchise holder in Canada (or BC or Western Canada or however they wish to divide the territory)? How much do you reckon those franchise rights are for Washington state?

  11. Nice news, but DTF is just another “good” XLB restaurant.
    I had their XLB when I lived in Shanghai for a bit 2 years ago and it was very comparable to the Taipei main location (they have 2 in TPE).

    I can see why they would expand to Bellevue as Washington just doesn’t have enough of these places. By opening there, they can set a benchmark. It would also suffice to point out that it will be very unlikely they will come to Vancouver because of sheer competition and high quality that Vancouver xlb already has. Just look at Chef Hung’s TBN.

    NYC dining I think is a slightly different beast. The culture as well as the eastern palatte, is different. And rent would be so enormous that you’d have to find retail space in Chinatown, and it’s dirty/dingy. Way off the target market that DTF is trying to cater to. (eg. the Shanghai location is located in a huge super mall, and is so $ in comparison to local fare that it really caters to the business and wealthy crowd.). In NYC, people pay big prices for steaks and fusion fare, but not street food because it’s not impressive enough.

  12. yeah, my microsoft friends has been talking about it for awhile now, and they keep saying it give us a reason to go down there more often. You know I think we have a bigger Chinese population than they do, so if anything, they should open one here. Maybe we can all email them, and see what happens πŸ˜€

    The last time I went to the food truck in Richmond, the owner was talking about moving out of Richmond due to lease problem, they were considering Burnaby/Coquitlam, aww I guess they decided Richmond is their territory πŸ˜›

  13. Hello! I happen to live in Singapore, and.. its amuses me to see the Americans/Canadians rave about din tai fung! Here in Singapore, its just one of the run-of-the-mill restaurants, haha. Good, but not impressive. Although I must say I heard that the quality is much better at the flagship stores so perhaps its not a good comparison. Either way, I hope you don’t pin too high hopes because you’re going to drive 3 hours just to eat this πŸ™‚

  14. Tenku Bakudanyaki and the other trailers are open everyday from 3pm – 10pm. From the video, you can see the yellow bus in the back, will be the next food vehicle, only it will not be operating along side the other 3. The new bus will be located downtown as one of the lottery winners. As well, there have been talks that other mobile vendors that were not able to operate downtown are looking to join the food trailers of Richmond so watch out for them soon!

  15. i’ve been to TW every year for the last 4 years, i married a TW girl. we went to DTF 2 years ago at the original flagship location in Taipei, it was overpriced but very very good, yes a wait can be very very long. Both Dinesty, Shanghai River, Longs and Lins are very good in vancouver. DTF is something you must try once because of the hype, yet is is good and is a good benchmark. I also tried the arguable number 2 XLB in taipei, ‘dim siu lau’, i found Dinesty better though. I did hear that Dinesty pouched chefs from both ‘dim siu lau’ and DTF from taiwan to make their XLB

  16. Bellevue? Seems like a strange choice for a Din Tai Fung location. I would have thought NYC would get one location before another place in North America. Guess there’s a sizeable Taiwanese community down there.

    • I would have expected San Fran, esp. on the east side of the bay, where there are sizable Taiwanese communities.

  17. The opening of Din Tai Fung in Bellevue was the talk of the town amongst the Chinese/Microsoft community here in the Eastside of Seattle when we heard about it a few weeks ago. Everyone’s very excited πŸ˜› We live 2 mins (walking distance) from the new location so I’m sure we’ll be going there pretty often.. I’m not too crazy about Xiao Long Baos but my husband is. πŸ™‚

    You should also try Facing East (Taiwanese restaurant) when you’re in Bellevue.. it’s ALWAYS PACKED but they just reopened yesterday after renovating the restaurant making it double the size it was before.

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