Hit the mall for the newest outpost of Taiwan’s wildly popular hot spot, Din Tai Fung.
Tigard’s sprawling Washington Square is perhaps not the first place you might think of for a destination meal out with your kids.
And yet, as soon as word filtered down that long-awaited international soup dumpling palace Din Tai Fung would be opening their first Oregon location there, we made a beeline for the mall.
There’s some backstory here. Din Tai Fung has been on the global foodie map since at least 1993, when The New York Times named the original location in Taiwan as one of the top 10 restaurants worth traveling for in the world. Accolades and expansion followed, including to California and Washington state.
At the new Oregon location we had a lunch reservation (unfortunately, they have since switched to walk-ins only), and were greeted by name at the door of the restaurant and seated promptly, the start of what would be uniformly excellent service throughout our meal. Our waiter cheerfully walked us through the restaurant’s DIY dipping sauce (one part soy sauce to three parts vinegar, mixed with some julienned ginger), and got drinks to the table quickly; more importantly, he made certain that the meal was well-paced.
In other words, the food came in waves, not all at once, so we could enjoy one dish before starting another.
And boy, was there a lot of food. We started with the famous xiao long bao soup dumplings. (Faithful readers will remember that a year ago, we recommended XLB, on North Williams, which also specializes in these delicate, broth-filled dumplings, filled with a pinch of gingery pork.) We tried both the pork and pork/shrimp versions, which come 10 to an order. They were good, but not transcendent, and for me, not as luscious and lip-smacking as the homegrown varieties at XLB.
But beyond soup dumplings, Din Tai Fung has a much more versatile and balanced menu.
Their pork potstickers, a surefire kid-pleaser, were as good a version as I’ve found in Portland, crispy yet light, and full of flavor. My husband’s order of vegetarian hot and sour soup was properly spicy, stopping his incipient sinus cold in its tracks (helped along by the restaurant’s piping hot pot of jasmine tea, which came in a huge insulated kettle, a nice touch).
My daughter refused to share her order of garlic-sauteed string beans, the stealth MVP of the menu (we spied them on almost every table as we walked out), and allowed us to try only a few spoonfuls of her shrimp-fried rice. My son was somewhat more generous with the sticky sesame ribs he’d ordered as an appetizer, but gave me the stink eye after I’d already taken two and tried to filch a third. And the cucumber salad, tossed with a slick of chili oil, is a nice crunchy palate cleanser.
We were too full to even contemplate dessert, but their molten chocolate filled xiao long bao seem made for our Instagram age.
All of these treats added up to over $100 for the four of us, more than we would usually spend for brunch/lunch out — but it was enough food to yield lunches for the next day, and we were all still so full by the time dinner rolled around that I didn’t have to cook that night. Win-win!
Maybe because of their mall location, Din Tai Fung seems especially family friendly. There’s no play area, but there is a giant stack of high chairs and booster seats, and changing tables in both restrooms. Little kids will demand to be boosted up to better see the window outside the restaurant where employees can be observed making all varieties of dumplings, patiently twisting and folding to get them just right. It’s the best window shopping at the mall, bar none.
9724 SW Washington Square Rd, Tigard, dintaifungusa.com.
Monday-Thursday, 11 am-9 pm; Friday, 11 am-10 pm; Saturday, 10 am-10 pm; Sunday, 10 am-9 pm.