If I have only one day in Taipei the places I would visit are, in that order: breakfast at Mei Er Mei, lunch at Din Tai Fung, a visit to Eslite bookstore, coffee at Have a Booday followed by KTV and beef noodles at Partyworld, massage at Sakura and lastly a late night snack of soybean milk and fried dough and shao bing at Yong He.
Amongst these places to visit perhaps Din Tai Fung is the only place that is also available outside of Taiwan. Din Tai Fungs have mushroomed all over the world, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, even the United States. It is therefore not the case that I do not have the opportunity to sample Din Tai Fung on a regular basis. It is also not the case whereby its branches are so numerous that their qualities become inconsistent while only the original one in Taipei is good. Quite the opposite, ALL Din Tai Fungs all over the world (with the exception of the one in Hong Kong – or perhaps I have gone on a bad hair day) are of a surprisingly high quality; from décor to cleanliness to its friendly and efficient staff to thoughtful little details like folding baskets put alongside the table for your bags, to its food. Everything at Din Tai Fung is so perfect, like your annoying high school friend who has got the looks, the grades, the family background, and the cutest guy as her boyfriend. Din Tai Fung makes you wonder – how do you manage to keep everything under such perfect control when you are a 36- fold chain?
No matter how much you hate or question your high school friend or Din Tai Fung, the reality remains the same. Some people are just good at everything. Take a look at the open kitchen window of Din Tai Fung’s new Sogo branch for example. Look at the dedication with which the staff breaks up the dough, puts it onto the scale (they even weigh the dough to make sure that they are all the same size! I could hardly believe my eyes) and flattens it out into small pancakes. Watching this scene ought to make many feel ashamed of themselves. At least thinking about myself, I can hardly remember the last time when I put that much dedication into producing something. Even if there was, it was definitely not at work. How did the management at Din Tai Fung pull this off? Like the beaming staff at Haidilao in Beijing, this remains a big mystery to me.
So, why do I keep on visiting Din Tai Fung everywhere I go despite the fact that it is soon becoming as commonplace as Starbucks? Simply because it is so good I just cannot afford to not go.