The Atmosphere: While the dumplings at Bellevue's Din Tai>"/>
The Watering Hole: Din Tai Fung, 700 Bellevue Way NE #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 the side, a refuge for expectant diners antsy from the expected hour long wait. Go to any other Din Tai Fung location in the world, and one would not think to find a bar. Bellevue's Din Tai Fung aims to change all that as the first Din Tai Fung location with its own bar program. The sleek, modern bar sits closely by the entrance, a happy holding space to keep unseated diners from staring down other patrons. High ceilings, modern day lanterns, and a black granite bar give the distinct feeling of having drinks in a hotel lobby.
As Lincoln Square shoppers, good looking couples, and hungry families wander in, the crowd around the bar starts to look like what some Seattleites might call, "quintessentially Eastside." But Din Tai Fung's bar is the everyman's bar, a bar where one would feel no shame having drinks with their mom, and better yet, one where a Manhattan can come with a steamer full of juicy dumplings.
The Barkeep: Bar manager Mark Davis has a big job on his hands. The bar program created by his team will serve as a model for future Din Tai Fung Restaurants. "Because we were the first ones, we are able to be more creative," said Davis. Davies previously worked as a bar manager for Red Robin, and later worked at the Silver Star Steakhouse in Montana before exploring a different career path. He stumbled on a Craigslist for the bar manager position at Din Tai Fung, which brought him back to working in restaurants. Davis loves experimenting and crafting new drinks with his bar team. The one most involved in the making of the drink gets to name the drink. Davis named the bar's newest drink, a currently off menu item which he is introducing to all his regulars.
The Drink: Davis' plum blossom martini has the ladies all in a tizzy. The light purple drink was instantly recognizable by a chirpy female server who deemed it one of her favorites. Davis used 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, and more popular Ginger Lime Drop. The menu features other drinks like the Beijing Bellini, Lychee Mojito, and Taipei 101 (named after the prominent building). Even certain beers have adopted exotic notes like the Mangoweizen (beer fermented with mango), ginger pale ale, and Elysian's Jasmine IPA.
I admit that I wasn't keen on the idea, even a bit critical perhaps, of Din Tai Fung having a bar. I admit that I 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 Fung that I've long known and loved, but I admit that I don't hate it. I kind of, actually, really like it. In its defense, the bar carries wines, local beers, and a list of Asian beers from different countries.
Non-drinkers have the option of shaken milk teas that outranks all others in the area. It's clear that as the DTF chain grows to feed more people around the world, the bar and beverage program is adapting accordingly to truly be, the everyman's bar.