Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese restaurant specializing in xiao long bao, opens its first Las Vegas location at Aria. The restaurant replaces Aria Cafe, once known as the largest 24-hour café on the Strip.
The Shanghai-style soup dumplings feature Kurobuta pork and broth that bursts open on the first bite. Diners should drop one dumpling on a spoon with a sauce made at the table by the customer, and poke it open with chopsticks to release the soup inside before eating. The restaurant suggests combining three parts vinegar to one part soy sauce, and then adding fresh ginger to complete the dip.
“Some of our guests just can’t wait to put everything in their mouth,” says James Fu, a chef with Din Tai Fung who is in Las Vegas to train the staff. A QR code on the menu includes instructions on how to eat the soup dumplings as well.
The restaurant estimates it will make 10,000 soup dumplings daily.
A glassed in kitchen at the front of the 5,580-square-foot restaurant gives diners a glimpse into how xiao long bao is made. Chefs work on metal tables to stretch and roll dough, then pull off up to 5.2 grams for each dumpling. Each piece of dough gets rolled into a circle, then filled. The chef then makes 18 folds, the golden ratio, swirled at the top to contain the 5 grams pork to 16 grams dough. Humidifiers in the room add some much-need moisture in the air. Bamboo baskets filled with XLB go onto a steamer for three minutes and 30 seconds before being sent out to awaiting diners.
“The only thing that makes them taste different or slightly different is because of the pork from a different regions,” Fu notes.
A jaunty bao zai, one of the dumpling kids mascots, greets diners at the front of the restaurant.
While xiao long bao is the star of the show, Din Tai Fung offers much more on its menu. Sauteed string beans with garlic are just as addictive as the XLB, while appetizers such as sweet and sour pork baby back ribs bring a classic take on the popular Shanghainese dish.
Other versions of the dumplings come with truffle and blue crab, Jidori chicken, and vegetable and mushroom with glass noodles, bok choy, dried bean curd, and shiitake mushrooms. The restaurant also offers noodle dishes such as braised beef noodle soup, Jidori chicken wontons with spicy sauce, shrimp fried noodles, and vegetarian noodles with sesame sauce.
The restaurant also offers chocolate xiao long bao for dessert with chocolate lava as the filling, and red bean buns
Din Tai Fung also features a cocktail program unique to the brand with seasonal boba renditions. For fall, the restaurant has spiced boba with dark rum, ginger syrup, half and half, black tea, and two dashes of bitters.
Bentel & Bentel designed the space. Diners can look out through a 40-foot glass wall with views of Vdara’s architecture and Nancy Rubins’ “Big Edge” art installation. Cliffs made from hundreds of stacked stones and paintings from Parker Ito that originally debuted at Art Basel decorate the space. The works intertwine Ito’s Japanese heritage with his experiences in Las Vegas, while depicting his unconventional studio practice that uses photography, painting, and printmaking techniques.
Din Tai Fung got its start in Taiwan in 1972 when Bing-Yi Yang decided to make soup dumplings instead of cooking oil. Japanese tourists fell in love with the intricate dumplings, which helped launch a worldwide dumpling empire that now stretches across 13 countries. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the restaurant’s expansion to the United States, where long lines of diners would wait up to two hours for a coveted table at the original location in Arcadia, California, which closed earlier this year.
Din Tai Fung, Aria, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Open daily from 4 to 11 p.m. Reservations recommended.
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