Saturday, August 18

Din Tai Fung - Los Angeles - Guest Post

Hello! Sherry here, bringing you more food reviews and photos. Last weekend I went down to LA and (finally) visited Din Tai Fung, a dumpling house chain from Taiwan. Now, I love dumplings and pretty much grew up eating them (in fact, I have a freezer full of them homemade by my parents in case I start starving at home). There is so much technique and thought put into making a good dumpling -  the perfect dumpling skin, putting together the right ingredients, wrapping them such that the content or juice of the dumpling don't spill out. Din Tai Fung's signature dumpling is my all-time favorite xiao long bao. Flavorful juicy pork (or occasionally other types of meats will be used), a pocketful of juice or "soup", and a thin skin that can hold all of that without being punctured when you pick them up with your chopsticks - that is what makes a good xiao long bao.

This is their menu, which includes nice photos of all their offerings in case you're not sure what you're getting yourself into. Browse closely and you will notice some repeat of photos. 

We started out our meal with this cold dish/salad. I liked this a lot. It was light, simple, slightly vinegary with a kick of spice without overpowering its main ingredients. This was a good start before our "heavier" items arrived. My only comment: a bigger plate for 5 people would be nice. :)

Next came the Shanghai (or would it be Taiwanese?) rice cakes. The texture of the rice cakes were good and there was just the right amount of sauce. Nothing too too special about this, but it was cooked well and definitely tasted yummy. 

First batch of pork + crab dumplings! These were absolutely (do I sound like Gordon Ramsay now?) delicious! The skin was a really thin, yet durable texture that held all of the ingredients inside without any leaks. The filling was a nice balance of pork and crab, and there was just enough "soup" inside, so that it does not feel too "fatty." 

These are their mini pork soup dumplings. There's actually a bowl of soup that comes along with it, but I think you can do without it. Similar to the crab and pork dumplings, these were very flavorful and juicy. Although it was a nice, bite-sized piece, I think I still prefer the regular sized dumplings, similar to the ones in the photo before this. 

Peanut sauce noodles - another simple, yet very tasty dish. I am going to assume these noodles were handmade. I enjoy sauce-type noodles a lot, such as Korean jajangmyun or the Northern Chinese versions. Sometimes the sauce from these types of noodle dish can be overwhelming, but this one at Din Tai Fung was not. There were no other meat or veggies, but I didn't even give that any thought as a nom-ed away at these. 


Of course, we saved room for dessert. Pictured above are two of their dessert dumplings - the taro dumpling and black sesame bao (?), both equally delicious. As you can see, the taro one is wrapped similarly to all their other xiao long baos. I love the way they wrapped this since I've never really liked any type of bao/dumpling that has thick skins. And I love black sesame-anything! Now, if only they can make a black sesame dumpling with the skin of the taro one, that would be perfect... :) 

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Din Tai Fung, and look forward to returning during future LA trips. There are definitely a few more items on the menu I want to try. I used to rave all about the xiao long baos ("xlb's") from a number of restaurants in New York, but I have to say the ones here are actually at the top of my list. The NY (i.e. Joe's Shanghai) xlbs definitely contain more soup, but that can be a good or bad thing. Their soup is tasty, but because a good amount of is from the pork fat, it can feel pretty heavy after a few dumplings. I'm sure Din Tai Fung is one of those places some may label "overrated," but I think this is a must-try, especially if you're a dumpling fan like me. Excellent service, decently priced, good portions, and great-tasting food, what more can you ask for?

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