Taiwan-based dumpling destination Din Tai Fung registered a business name with the state of Oregon. (
Din Tai Fung, the international chain of dumpling restaurants once recognized by the New York Times among the top ten restaurants in the world, appears to be planning its first Oregon location.
That’s according to a business license first spotted by Eater PDX for a "Din Tai Fung (Washington Square) Restaurant, LLC," registered with the Secretary of State in late December, 2017. That name indicates a restaurant could be headed for Washington Square, the mall just off Oregon 217 near the Portland-Beaverton border.
Details remain sparse. Din Tai Fung has yet to make an official announcement, and did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment (or, let’s be honest, a dozen other emails I’ve sent over the past 10 years asking when they would come to Portland).
Until then, here’s a Q&A that details everything we know so far:
Wait, I didn’t read the intro. What’s happening?
Soup dumpling destination Din Tai Fung might be opening its first Portland restaurant at Washington Square mall. Also, c’mon, man.
I’ve never been. What’s it like?
Though it started in Taipei, Din Tai Fung now has a global reach, with locations in15 countries, including 11 in the United States, all on the West Coast. If it opens, the Washington Square location will probably be much like the others: In or near a mall, with a window out front where folks waiting in line can look in on the dumpling station, often filled with dozen or more employees wrapping ground pork in dough sealed with many intricate folds.
The menu is built around soup dumplings, a dish more commonly associated with Shanghai, though the rest of the menu, from fried pork chops to the beef noodle soup, actually looks a lot more like a Taiwanese restaurant. That’s because Din Tai Fun actually started as a small shop that doubled as a cooking oil retailer on Xinyi Road in Taipei, Taiwan, near Yongkang Street, the city’s famous snack row. If you want to add some sauteed string beans or fried rice to round out your dumpling order, I won’t stop you.
And what exactly are soup dumplings again?
I’ve probably written about soup dumplings too many times already. Give this XLB preview from last year a read.
Will the Oregon location be good?
The short answer: Yes. There’s been some concern among folks left with a bad taste in their mouth from Yong Kang Street, the no-good dim sum spot in Pioneer Place Mall. But while that was a loosely affiliated spin-off of a relatively unknown Las Vegas restaurant, Din Tai Fung is a global force. I’ve been to Din Tai Fung locations in three countries, and while the Seattle soup dumplings don’t droop quite as nicely as the ones at, say, the Taipei original, they’re still damn good.
More importantly, Din Tai Fung is a model of consistency. Seattle’s U Village location, where I’ve probably eaten the most, has produced the same very good dumplings, noodles, veggies and sides every time I’ve visited, at all times of day.
I heard Din Tai Fung was overrated?
Now for the long answer. First of all, yeah, if you’ve had A+ xiaolongbao, these are going to be B+s. But if you’ve heard they’re overrated, it’s probably because our neighbors to the north are getting jaded. Specifically, Seattleites have turned their eyes to Dough Zone, another slick, dumpling-focused restaurant that started in the eastern suburb of Bellevue before heading downtown.
But that’s not a Portland problem. Locally, we’ve good soup dumplings have popped up at places such as North Portland’s counter-service XLB, a restaurant that took a bit of inspiration from Din Tai Fung. But no one in town combines Din Tai Fung’s scale and execution. Time will tell if the Portland opening happens at just the right time, or a few years too late.
Who will own the Portland location?
Franchise owner David Wasielewski is listed as the manager of the LLC, meaning the Portland location will most likely be part of the Seattle group. Wasielewski was the first non-family member franchisee.
Why Washington Square?
We still don’t know. Assuming any of this actually happens, it does seem to follow Din Tai Fung’s Washington State expansion plans.
Wasielewski opened his first Din Tai Fung in Bellevue, the Seattle suburb and Asian food destination, before growing to four area locations, including one downtown. Beaverton, already home to a handful of Chinese restaurants with Seattle-area ties, including the great Taste of Sichuan, is probably the closest thing Portland has to Bellevue, only without the skyscrapers.
Will there be a line?
Oh yeah, especially early on. When you go, you’re going to walk past the little dumpling mascot by the door, give the hostess your name, then likely wait 30 minutes to an hour or more.
But here’s a little tip for you to put under your cap: If you’re in a small group, you can avoid the whole sign-in experience by grabbing a seat at the first-come, first-served bar. Don’t say I never did anything for ya.
— Michael Russell