Din Tai Fung: The Cop, the Critic, and the Pork Buns

"I step back out into the hallway. Trying to be casual about it this time, I stand by the fish tank and watch the dumpling-makers again. There are 17 of them tonight, all with their heads down, filling and crimping and packing teetering towers of steamer baskets. One guy does nothing but shovel raw pork goo into round dumpling skins. Another runs endless disks of dough through a pasta roller. Another just carries little balls of dough around to the stretchers--knobs of white dough, no bigger than the first joint of my thumb. It's fascinating to watch the machine in action, but then, in the corner of my eye, I catch sight of a Bellevue cop coming through the doors to the skyway next to Din Tai Fung. He's walking with purpose, making straight for the restaurant, and he looks scary-pissed as only a man with a uniform and a gun really can. Cop goes in, cop comes out. Cop stalks off with no lawbreakers in tow, and I'm wondering to myself, what the fuck?

Everyone needs stories to root them in place. In the year that I've been here, I've collected a few. I've got a Ballard story, a couple Eastside stories, a West Seattle story, plenty of Market stories. Stories are my business. I collect them like baseball cards.

And now I have a Bellevue story--a classic."

From this week's review of Din Tai Fung, the legendary dumpling joint recently opened in Bellevue.

It's the story of the cop, the critic, and the missing pork buns, a sad little tale of hunger, betrayal, and abuse of authority. But you're going to have to wait until tomorrow to see how everything turns out, because tomorrow is the day when the review of Din Tai Fung--the legendary dumpling joint out of Taiwan which fans claim serves the best dumplings in the world--officially hits the stands and the Internets.

And the cop story? That's just one little piece of my Din Tai Fung odyssey. There are also tales of Chinese army deserters and professional dumpling-makers, a brief history of the movie Ghostbusters, and, of course, lots and lots of eating. Did I love the place as some of its disciples do--gushingly and without reservation? I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying that no, I did not. But then, I didn't fall into the trap of reflexive loathing that so many other disappointed dumpling fanatics do either. There is a purpose to Din Tai Fung, and a way to do it right.

And you can read all about it tomorrow. Until then, you're just going to have to wait--something you're probably used to if you've already tried to get a table at Din Tai Fung.

Follow me on Twitter for all the food news, gossip, rumor and innuendo you can stand. You can find me at @Jason_Sheehan.

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