Everyone knows about Din Tai Fung. The world renowned, Michelin-starred international-chain restaurant synonymous with xiao3 long2 bao1 draws the tourist horde to its ten stores throughout Taipei city. But the Taiwanese know Din Tai Fung isn't the exclusive paragon for xiao long bao. Ask any local, and they'll direct you to a Kao Chi chain restaurant instead.
Kao3 Chi1, with an even more enduring legacy than Din Tai Fung, is the less touristy, less commercial, but just as exceptional, compeer to Din Tai Fung. The restaurant may be less prominent than DTF, but the Shanghainese fare is no mousy imitation of its world-famous counterpart.
Just about every one of its four branches does a roaring business, largely sustained by the local populace. Obviously, reservations are a must. Or be prepared to wait in line for an hour or so.
The Xiao Long Bao (NT$220), or soup dumpling, was exquisitely nuanced. The skin is a smidge thicker than DTF's standard, but it was still thin enough to be toothsome. The soup and pork mince was more delicate as well, and I liked that restrain and polish.
The highlight, and must-try, was the Sheng1 Jian1 Bao1 (NT$220) or pan-fried pork buns. Thick flour buns stuffed with a delicious pork mince steamed to fluffy perfection, and given a toasty crunch on the bum with a pre-heated skillet pan.
The restaurant for reference.
#B2 Eslite Spectrum Songyan
No. 88 Yanchang Road, Xinyi District
Tel: +886 2 6639 6589
Open daily from 11am to 10pm