It’s been hoped for. It’s been rumored. Now it’s official. Din Tai Fung will open a Seattle location at University Village this fall.
The Taiwanese chain opened an outpost in Bellevue’s Lincoln Square in late 2010. Its arrival whipped diners into a frenzy of anticipation. The food in general has an international following, but people get especially verklempt about Din Tai Fung’s signature xiao long bao, aka soup dumplings.
David Wasielewski, the managing partner and general manager of Din Tai Fung’s local outposts says he started scouting a Seattle location a year ago; downtown was originally in the running, but the U Village management team knocked his socks off. Plus, the upscale shopping center format seemed to work well in Bellevue.
Din Tai Fung will be in the new complex, currently a giant construction zone along NE 45th Street, close to Blue C Sushi. The goal is November, since mid-December holiday shoppers would add an extra layer of chaos.
The new space will be slightly larger, have a menu identical to Bellevue’s, and echo that location’s clean lines and muted hues. One key difference—a larger bar space with about 30 seats and a few TVs. Wasielewski is a UW grad and sensitive to the area’s football-viewing needs.
Dumpling makers will be stationed in a windowed room up front, just like in Bellevue, so diners can marvel at the fancy fingerwork that goes into creating the xiao long bao. It’s definitely a hypnotic way to pass the time while you wait for a table.
And wait you shall; when the first Din Tai Fung opened, waits surpassed three hours during prime time. I was there a few weeks ago on a Saturday at 3pm and it was still an hour to get seating for two. Though the opening is more than six months away, Din Tai Fung is already busy scouting potential dumpling-makers for the staff.
“We need at least five or six months of training time so these guys will be ready to take on strong business demand,” says Wasielewski. Last time around, “we din’t have a restaurant to use, just a room with some tables—not a real life experience.” This time around dumpling masters-in-training will work some shifts in Bellevue to help get the hang of both the skill and the fast pace (plus all those hungry, photo-happy people watching you through the window).
Though Wasielewski told Rebekah Denn of the Seattle Times that the crush of interest in Din Tai Fung's arrival took him by surprise, it's a safe bet that the new location will be as reliably packed as the original.