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On a rainy, cold evening last week on our way to the Gourmet Traveller Institute with Mark Best, we stopped off at Din Tai Fung for a quick bite to eat. We wanted just a few light things, not to fill us, to allow for potential taste-testing later.

Din Tai Fung was perfect for that.

It was funny watching the staff with their protective gear :) I don’t know why the need for the face masks. It seems that protocol is a priority. Our table was less than 3 feet from the counter, but it was still necessary for the staff to put the drinks on a tray and then turn around and take the drinks off the tray and put them on our table.

Now, for the dumplings. This is where that attention to detail shines, with 18 folds at the top of each dumpling. We ordered by ticking a list of items on the menu, then they went away and made what we ordered, fresh to order. First, the xiao long bao, the steam pork dumpling with the hot soup inside which spills out as you bite into it.

Then the vegie dumplings:

Then the crab xiao long bao, similar to the first one, except with crab as well as pork inside:

On the top right here are the shrimp and pork shao mai. They look spectacular, looking like a fountain with some shrimp sitting on top. Very tasty.

And then we had to have some of the good-sized steamed buns. On the left vegie bun with green vegies, and on the right the pork bun. The pork was not the cha siu bao pork found typically at yum cha, but a more plain pork mixture.

The atmosphere was warm, the food excellent. I look forward to getting back again to try more dishes, especially the dumplings. Perfect for a winter’s night.

Details

Here are the details about Din Tai Fung at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.

Web site http://www.dintaifungaustralia.com.au/
Address World Square, 644 George St, Sydney, NSW, 2000
Phone (02) 9264 6010
Open Lunch
Mon-Fri: 11:30-2:30
Sat-Sun: 11:00-3:00
Dinner
Mon-Wed: 5:30-9:00
Thur-Sat: 5:00-9:30
Sun: 5:00-9:00
Menu Chinese: dumplings and more ($10-20 per serve)
Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon


Where do you like to go for dumplings?

Update (June 25, 2012): It is with regret that I learned that Ad Lib Bistro, along with the Berowra Waters Inn was closing. See the SMH article for more details. I’ll leave the rest of this post as is, in memoriam! Big changes going on in the restaurant world in Sydney.

 

In thinking about what to do to celebrate my “round birthday”, as a friend called it, another decade, I had been debating where I’d like to go for dinner. It had to be something with great food, something special, and something where there would be dishes my nephew and niece might enjoy. There are quite a few restaurants I was looking at, with unique, incredible dishes, which I would enjoy, but then those might be not appreciated as much by younger ones.

Another consideration was how many to invite, whether to invite the majority of my family and friends, or to limit the numbers and keep it more intimate.

French food, and just about all things French, are the ultimate for me, so eventually I settled on Ad Lib Bistro at Pymble, which had the added advantage of being easily accessible by everyone who were going to be there. I had been to Ad Lib Bistro earlier, and found the food delicious, and service superb.

On the evening, I arrived to a beautifully set table, with the menu for the evening there for each person.

As guests arrived, we had some celebratory champagne: the Pommery Springtime Brut Rosé. Loved that! It was a pale pinkish-golden colour, and gentle, subtle in flavour.

For the more than 10 people there for the celebratory dinner, I could choose a dégustation menu, or a table d’hôte menu. I ended up going with the latter, so that people could choose what they wanted. The Ad Lib staff were helpful in the planning of the evening, including letting me make some adjustments to the standard menu to include dishes I wanted:

The Ad Lib Bistro staff provided superb service, in the planning, and throughout the evening.

Ad Lib Bistro - staff

Appetisers

For the appetiser, I ordered the prawns sautéed in garlic butter, baby spinach and Paris mushrooms. It seems to be all the rage to have a foam on a dish, and this had the garlic butter foam surrounding the prawns. Even the spinach tasted garlicky (yum!). The prawns were tender, succulent.

Here’s the sugar-cured salmon, toasted brioche, herb and shallot mascarpone. It looked gorgeous. I’m looking forward to getting back again so I can have more of the dishes!

I heard good reports about that, and the onion soup gratinée:

Mains

I had eaten the duck before at Ad Lib Bistro. Big, big flavours. Normally I would choose something different on each visit to a place, but this was so good I had to order it again. The duck confit is moist and tender, with a crispy skin. The Lyonnaise potatoes were rich and flavourful, having been sautéed with butter, onion and garlic. And then the fresh orange, and the endive and raddichio salad added complementary flavours and textures, with the orange adding sweetness, the endive and radicchio adding crunch and bitterness, which all the more made the flavour of the duck stand out.

The fish fillet meunière was served with almonds, green beans, and beurre noisette. The fish was tender and tasty.

I heard good reports about the grilled sirloin steak, served with beurre café de Paris. One of my friends who doesn’t usually eat steak even ordered it and loved it.

For sides, we had lots of small dishes of mesclun salad, French fries with mayo, and creamed potatoes. Even though I had the Lyonnaise potatoes on my plate I had to try the creamed potatoes, and they were light, fluffy, buttery, creamy, heavenly, melting in your mouth.

Desserts

I had read that the dark chocolate mousse is normally plated at the table, for a bit of showmanship, but I think because of the number at our table, it was served already plated. Light, full chocolate flavour.

I ordered the crêpes suzette, served with macerated oranges. By that time of night it was dark outside, and the light more dim inside, so the pouring of the lit Cognac and Grand Marnier liqueur, with its blue flame, onto the crêpes provided some drama. The rich orange flavours and the lightness of the crêpes were even better than I could have imagined they’d be. Another dish I’d order again because it was so good.

The raspberry souffle, served with a raspberry sorbet, was gorgeous. I’ve had it previously there at Ad Lib. The souffle is incredibly light, and the raspberry so definite. The raspberry sorbet ball rests on tiny crumbles of something like a butterscotch, presumably to stop it from rolling around the plate (and the crunchiness adds texture).

After dessert we were served tea, coffee and petit fours, which were delicious chocolate truffles.

A wonderful evening. Superb food, superb company and superb service. What more could one ask?

Details

Here are the latest details for Ad Lib Bistro, Pymble (details are different for Ad Lib Bistro at Double Bay). Check their web site for current information.

Web Site http://www.adlibbistro.com
Address 1047 Pacific Highway, Pymble, NSW, Australia
Phone 02 9988 0120
Open Lunch: Mon-Fri, 12 noon – 2:30pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat, 5pm – 10pm
Also open from 10am Mon-Fri for coffee and dessert
Menu French, Mains $25-45
Ad Lib Bistro on Urbanspoon


Where have you gone for a memorable celebration meal?