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Ding Tai Fung Shanghai Dim Sum

Posted by Gadjo Sevilla / Reviewed on March 10, 2010 / review policy

Ding Tai FungDing Tai Fung Shanghai Dim Sum is located in a busy Markham strip mall 35-minutes drive from downtown Toronto - and it's well worth the trek. It's difficult to find good parking here and when you finally get to the restaurant, there is always a queue, especially on weekends. These inconveniences are almost certain, but for the exceptional food experience that's to follow, they are so very worth it.

Ding Tai Fung is the only restaurant in the GTA specializing in Shanghai dim sum (also known as Xiaolongbao or "little basket buns"). Differing from the widely available Cantonese-style dumplings and buns, the Shanghai variety is generally larger, brothier and focuses on a variety of fresh ingredients and big flavour.

The restaurant is clean, austere and is clearly all about the food. Closely packed tables leave just enough space for the servers to squeeze in and out with the orders, while a bevy of cooks behind the counter rapidly prepare the dim sum for baking, steaming and frying.

Ding Tai FungDing Tai FungYou wont see any dim sum carts at Ding Tai Fung, everything is ordered à la carte and made as it is ordered. Their menu, offering over 145 dishes, is as extensive as it is authentic, with their only other branch is located in Taiwan.

It's obvious that the kitchen and wait staff are used to working at a high level of efficiency. Even at peak times, orders arrive in less than 10 minutes, patron turnover is brisk and the food and tea is always fresh.

Our meal started with some piping hot Jasmine Tea and Steamed Chive and Meat Dumplings ($5.99). These large, crested dumplings are so big they require some effort to manage with chopsticks. If you can get one of these in your mouth, expect an explosion of succulence.

Carefully mixed inside the dumpling with the garlic, chive and savoury beef is warm broth that adds another dimension of taste and texture. The skin is firm enough to hold the broth yet soft, without being soggy.

Customers also have the option of ordering the very similar Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings ($5.99) which are equally delectable and are best eaten with the soup spoon so you don't lose any of the delicious broth.

Ding Tai FungDing Tai FungUp next were Sticky Rice and Meat Dumplings ($5.99) which are stuffed with glutinous rice and bits of stir-fried beef. These are partially open so you can see the grains if rice peeping out and are like a sweetish risotto in a thick wrapper. They're yummy, but rather heavy, so we ended up taking most of ours home.

Ding Tai FungAnother reason for making the trip up to Ding Tai Fung is to try their famed Green Onion Pancake ($3.49). Perfectly pan-toasted and firm on the outside yet soft on the inside, these large cakes are meals in themselves but were so good they were quickly consumed and definitely a must-try.

Shanghai-style Pan-Fried Minced Pork Buns ($5.99) look similar to white Cantonese style steamed buns but are rounder and their bottoms are pan-seared with sesame seeds; a nice touch. While these were tasty, we found that there was too much bread and not enough pork and filling inside.

While the dim sum is served with slivers of ginger, the dishes are so full of flavour that they don't need to be dipped in soy sauce even though this, together with chili oil, is readily available at the table.

Ding Tai FungFor dessert, we had Steamed Sesame Paste buns ($5.50) which were simply sublime and unlike anything we have tasted before. We know dessert is customarily served cold but there's something heavenly about the warm gooey goodness of these toasted and steamed buns that is extremely satisfying and simply the best way to end an excellent meal.

With its amazing flavours, consistent quality and wide variety of dishes, Ding Tai Fung is most definitely worth a visit and was, for us, a revelation in the richness and variety of flavours of Shanghai-style dim sum.

Ding Tai FungDing Tai Fung



sharkfarts / March 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm
I want to go to there
Andrew / March 11, 2010 at 09:43 am
Is this an official franchise of the *world-famous* Taiwanese restaurant?

It's not listed on their home page:

Lor / March 11, 2010 at 11:15 am
Wow, I'm getting hungry for dim sum
JY / March 11, 2010 at 11:15 am
Andrew Currie: No its not a franchise of the restaurant. They "borrowed" the name.
JY replying to a comment from Andrew / March 11, 2010 at 11:16 am
nope. they "borrowed" the name.
Amanda / March 11, 2010 at 11:22 am
great photos! I went there a few weeks ago. I wasnt very impressed but most dishes weren't bad. Do you know anywhere (good) that uses carts still? I kind of miss that. heh.. I know its not as fresh but there's something fun about sitting at a table with a few dozen different carts of food..
Polly / March 11, 2010 at 11:36 am
It would help to give the name of the mall. It looks like First Markham Place.

The food looks and sounds good but there are tons of places to get xiaolongbao in the GTA. Also, there are definitely more branches of this restaurant around the world besides those the author has listed.

Research. It helps.
Jen / March 11, 2010 at 11:38 am
I"m so glad you did a review here. My family has dined in almost every dim sum place in Toronto and they have THE BEST DIM SUM. They have their cooks behind a glass room where you can watch them prepare the food and when I was a kid, they were so friendly and they'd give me a piece of dough to play with (in return, I'd make them an animal figurine or something haha). My family from Vancouver also like to come here everytime they visit. They LOVE it.
Jen / March 11, 2010 at 11:38 am
I"m so glad you did a review here. My family has dined in almost every dim sum place in Toronto and they have THE BEST DIM SUM. They have their cooks behind a glass room where you can watch them prepare the food and when I was a kid, they were so friendly and they'd give me a piece of dough to play with (in return, I'd make them an animal figurine or something haha). My family from Vancouver also like to come here everytime they visit. They LOVE it.
Jen / March 11, 2010 at 11:39 am
I"m so glad you did a review here. My family has dined in almost every dim sum place in Toronto and they have THE BEST DIM SUM. They have their cooks behind a glass room where you can watch them prepare the food and when I was a kid, they were so friendly and they'd give me a piece of dough to play with (in return, I'd make them an animal figurine or something haha). My family from Vancouver also like to come here everytime they visit. They LOVE it.
ambrose / March 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm
Yes, this is First Markham Place.

There are still places using carts, but carts is a Cantonese thing; you won't find Shanghai dim sum restaurants using carts.
David / March 11, 2010 at 01:42 pm
This is not a real Ding Tai Fung. You can check on their official homepage to see that the closest one to Toronto is Los Angeles.
Eugene / March 11, 2010 at 02:04 pm
Ding Tai Fung in Markham is good, but is not part of the Taiwanese chain. The Markham location didn't borrow the name, they stole it. The Taiwanese chain is much better (for obvious reasons), but the Markham location is still top-notch in North America, if not the world outside of Taiwan and China.
gadjo / March 11, 2010 at 02:50 pm
I spoke with the restaurant's manager who confirmed that they do have another branch in Taiwan but are not part of the large Ding Tai Fung chain of restaurants.

Her explanation, "Same name, different owner."

Shanghai Style dimsum is not widely available in Toronto. Some bakeries and Cantonese dim sum places like Asian Legend may offer 2 or 3 similar dishes to the soup dumplings but not the 26 varieties that DTF has.
jack / March 11, 2010 at 05:33 pm
it's not a "branch".. they are totally unrelated to each other, other than using the name of a very famous restaurant in taipei.. the food served in Markham is okay..not amazing.. esp the beef noodles soup they have there.. it's not that great..
Wannie replying to a comment from gadjo / March 11, 2010 at 08:59 pm
To gadjo:

It is impossible that they have a same name restaurant in Taiwan because the name has been registered for copy rights. Where did the manager say the restaurant is located in Taiwan??
jack / March 11, 2010 at 09:46 pm
a lot of chinese restaurants are using the same name in HK or other cities.. there is a dessert place right where ding tai fung is..in markham place.. they stole the name from another restaurant in hk.. the way they got around copy rights is they usen a different english name to register their business here, but use the same chinese names from asia.. or change one of the chinese characters to a different one but with the same pronouciation
jameson / March 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm
yikes that looks excellent...too bad I'll never go out to Markham. Very tempting though.
amanda / March 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm
I hate it when people act like markham is so far away. "I'll never go to markham." why not? assuming you live in toronto, it's really not that far. People from markham, scarborough, pickering etc frequently travel down to toronto, and it'd be nice if others did the same.
Collin / March 12, 2010 at 01:34 am
i hate to leave the city as much as the next guy, but i took a drive up to first markham place this past weekend for fun, and it took about 30 mins.

if the food is as good as this review claims, i'll do it instead of bearing with the usual typical asian legends offering.

it's too bad they're not the same as the michelin 1 stared DTF, but like everything chinese, it's an imitation of another DTF brand. (it's okay, i'm chinese, i can say that :P)
mona / March 12, 2010 at 01:42 am
@amanda It's not that far away, but without a car, it's quite the hassle. Yeah, you can YRT via Finch station, but this Ding Tai Fong is not really worth it anyways. (This coming from a girl who grew up in Markham!) Exploring whatever is on the Finch bus line ("bao zi lin" has great bao zi -- midland/finch plaza with the taco bell) or Warden 53 is fine, but anything north of 7 on public transit is a pain.

Quite a tangent, but the Metro Square porkchop/chicken bento is what I crave when I visit my parents! $7 and it tastes pretty much like how they make it in Taiwan.
Jessica replying to a comment from amanda / March 12, 2010 at 09:55 am
Why would you leave Toronto to go to Markham?
JY / March 12, 2010 at 10:14 am
ya, in my earlier post, by "borrow" i meant they stole the name.
I've only been to DTF Toronto once. It was good, but doesnt really stand out in my mind. It is nothing comparable to the real thing in Taipei where the service is absolutely top notch - you will never see the bottom of your tea cup. I would go there like 3 or 4 times a week when I am visiting Taiwan. :)

As for this DTF having another location in Taipei, it is possible, but not under the same name. A lot of ex-DTF chefs sometimes would leave and open their own xiaolongbao restaurants.
Laura / March 12, 2010 at 11:28 am
You talk about this like this is a brand new place. The place has been around for years and changed chefs/ownership a few times
cee / March 12, 2010 at 01:30 pm
i've been here a couple times and my family likes it enough to go there regularly. personally, the food didn't stand out to me as exceptional like it's described in this post, but my mom loves it there. i'd say it's a solid restaurant to try out chinese food. it's cleaner and more efficient than most, and the food is certainly not mediocre.
jack / March 12, 2010 at 08:50 pm
mystery solved.. this DTF in markham.. Ding is spelled with "g".. the one in taipei is DinTaiFung.. which in mandarin is the proper pronounciation.. Ding is most likely a cantonese pronounciation(me think this restaurant's owner is from hk)..also the one in taipei/taiwan has no space between the 3 words.. ie DinTaiFung.. the one in markham is totally not related even DinTaiFung has many restaurants around the world:
anon. / March 13, 2010 at 12:39 am
just a few things:

- First Markham Place isn't a strip mall.
- parking depends on what day you go. if you go on a weekday parking should be fine
-Ding Tai Fung is not the only restaurant in the GTA specializing in Shanghai dim sum. in fact there's another restaurant in fmp that serves shanghainese cuisine also
- Xiaolongbao is a type of dumpling, not a word to describe shanghainese dim sum in general

but aside from that, I agree that the food is very good, and it's nice to see that restaurants in the suburbs are being reviewed as there are alot of good restaurants especially in Markham
Kevin Ng / March 13, 2010 at 10:18 am
This place IS legit - take it from an asian guy. The only minus is the parking situation @ the mall and the wait to get a table. Go for it!
Violet G / March 17, 2010 at 12:25 am
Went last Sunday and ordered the chive and pork dumplings, which should really just be called chive dumplings because there was hardly any visible pork in it. All of the dumplings we tried were really really oily, absolutely filled with it!! I had about a tablespoon of oil left in my bowl from eating 2 pieces of dumplings and these weren't the soup filled kind (one was pan fried).

Beef rolled in pancakes were very dry inside with crusty peking duck sauce, but the pancakes saturated in oil. The only thing that stood out was the noodle soup with braised beef, mostly because of the perfect chewy handmade noodles.

Also, they only have that awful artificial pink vinegar available for dipping. For a place that makes their own dumplings they should provide the authentic zingy brown kind.

Sarah replying to a comment from Polly / March 17, 2010 at 09:46 am
Yep it's First Markham Place, I've been there a few times. The food is good, but I've never had to wait for a table. Not sure about there being other places in the city where you can get the same "soupy" dumplings, but honestly they are delicious.
Anna / March 17, 2010 at 01:19 pm
The REAL DTF in Taiwan taste so great, so really can't compare. Haven't go to this one for years. Food not bad, but not impressive and a bit expensive too. There's alot of good restaurants with similar food in GTA or even on HWY 7.
joe / March 18, 2010 at 11:43 am
something's kinda weird with the photos... easy on the contrast & shallow DOF there.
Michael Thompson / December 2, 2010 at 02:32 pm
I have eaten at the original Din Tai Fung in Taipei, which serves amazingly delicious food. It's disappointing to see that a restaurant here can't stand for itself and feels a need to steal another restaurant's name.
SQ / May 25, 2011 at 09:06 am
Why would there be an carts? It's not a Cantonese restaurant DUH - it's annoying to read reviews by writers who don't do just a tiny bit more research or know what they're talking about - it really takes away from the writer's opinion in an otherwise well-written article. FYI there are plenty of HK style dim sum places you can order a la carte. Good pics of the food tho.
Gloria / May 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm
I found the xiaolongbao really oily, to the point of only being able to eat two.

I also found the best thing was the noodles in beef broth. Really good chewy handmade noodles, and the broth was clean-tasting and didn't have a lick of grease.

This is a nice place. A bit pricey. It's not a bad place to start; if I didn't have my much more knowledgeable parents taking me places, I wouldn't know where else to go.

I'm not an expert ... but is this really considered dim sum, even Shanghai style? I was under the impression that dim sum is mostly Cantonese.
Katie / May 19, 2012 at 09:25 am
I'd be willing to give it a try. And why has no one mentioned the chains in shanghai? It is specializing in shanghainese dumplings. The dumplings at this Shanghai Din Tai Fung were fantastic, also found in a mall,and there was at least on more of this resturant in the city.
Tony / June 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm
I'm from HK, I've been to the real ones in TW and HK.

This place cannot compare to the real ones from TW. I just bought takeout few days ago, had a bug in my rice!!~~

This would never happen in the real ones.
kenny.k / October 5, 2012 at 02:48 pm
Because most of chinese restaurant in Toronto only copy from some one else Im from Hong Kong as well. In Canada 90% of chinese people they just see the portion and make sure they can take away for next day lunch or dinner.Value for them is No.1. About the Taste ?????? they may said ok and most restaurant( A boss) only to know how many people to work with .But,in Hong Kong ,we can see the standard and feel the taste.Most of Canadian like we are including local .Just know chicken wing and roast beef.I was in Canada almost 25 years and I m a right to say that.................Better cook somthing at home instant of using some money for the (CRAB FOODS).
tim laslavic / December 29, 2012 at 01:33 pm
to kennyk....and all asians only know rice and spring rolls....you've been in canada for 25 years....when will you actually learn how to speak the language....you grammar is pathetic
Ken replying to a comment from Andrew / February 17, 2013 at 07:51 am
I just ate there yesterday. It can't be he real world famous Ding Tai Fung. The food is definitely not up to their standards. I had the real dining experience at Ding Tai Fung in Taipei. I'm surprised that the real "company doesn't sue them in court for ruining their brand.
danimal replying to a comment from Andrew / February 27, 2013 at 06:10 pm
Apparently you didn`t read the article.
It explains clearly that this restaurant has nothing to do with Din Tai Fung from Taiwan. Hence the different spelling of the name.
danimal replying to a comment from Ken / February 27, 2013 at 06:11 pm
Din Tai Fung is the restaurant chain based in Taiwan.
This is Ding tai fung. Din vs Ding
Katherine / May 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm
I'm not sure if it was worth the drive. The restaurant was spacious and clean, which is great because no matter how great the food, I'm not into eating in those holes in the wall so many people rave about. But in terms of the dim sum, unless you eat it RIGHT AWAY, it gets chewy and tough pretty quickly. I prefer a bit more of a delicate pastry.
Kyle / January 5, 2014 at 05:32 am
Food is overpriced and service was some of the worst I've ever had. Went with the family and brother preferred a drink that didn't come for some time. He flags a waitress over to ask about and she just turns around and walks away to another table when he's mid sentence. We know Asian restaurants don't always have the best service but I was in disbelief that she just walked away. Anyways long story short, I wouldn't recommend this place especially with all the other choices near fmp
Kyle / January 5, 2014 at 05:33 am
Ordered a drink*

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