The Watering Hole: Din Tai Fung, 700 Bellevue Way N.E., #280, 425-698-1095, BELLEVUE
The Atmosphere: While the dumplings at Bellevue's Din Tai Fung get all the praise, the restaurant's bar sits cozily on one side, a refuge for diners antsy from the expected hour-long wait. At any other Din Tai Fung in the world, one would not think to find a bar. Bellevue's aims to change that as the first Din Tai Fung with its own bar program. High ceilings, modern-day lanterns, and a black granite bar give the distinct feeling of drinking in a hotel lobby.
As Lincoln Square shoppers, good-looking couples, and hungry families wander in, the bar crowd starts to look like what some Seattleites might call "quintessentially Eastside." But at Din Tai Fung's bar, one would feel no shame having drinks with Mom; better yet, a Manhattan can come with a steamer full of juicy dumplings.
The Barkeep: Bar manager Mark Davis' bar program will serve as a model for future Din Tai Fung outlets. "Because we were the first ones, we are able to be more creative," says Davis, who loves crafting new drinks with his team; the one most involved in the making of a drink gets to name it.
The Drink: Davis' plum-blossom martini has the ladies all in a tizzy. He uses plum vodka in the drink, and named it after Taiwan's national flower, paying homage to the birthplace of the Din Tai Fung franchise.
The Verdict: The drink was good, but too sweet to pair with food. I might return to try the food with the lighter Ginger Lime Drop.
I admit I wasn't keen on the idea of a Din Tai Fung with a bar. I'd wanted to dismiss this place for its clean-cut Bellevue aesthetic, its menu of girly drinks, and the slight overkill of Asian references on the menu, which seem like such a departure from the homely Taiwanese Din Tai Fungs I've long known and loved. But I don't hate it. I actually really like it.