Taipei import Din Tai Fung Dumpling House opened in Arcadia in January 2000 and soon established dominance over other steamed dumpling emporiums in the San Gabriel Valley. Seven years later, news surfaced that Din Tai Fung was on the verge of opening a second L.A. branch. With a second location, diners might have a legitimate shot at waiting less than two hours for a table during the lunch and dinner rushes. Strangely, rather than open an outpost in say, Alhambra, at the other end of the SGV, the powers that be decided to open a modernized version out back. Incredibly the waits haven’t subsided at either location. On the plus side, neither has the quality level.
Special guest photographer Matt (Mattatouille) Kang captured the dinner on film.
Near the hostess station, an exhibition kitchen showcased a man pinching hand-rolled dough to craft ethereal dumpling skins.
Every Din Tai Fung dumpling is shaped differently, and appears in the hopper with a different vegetable. Juicy pork dumplings were stellar as always, each purse filled with scalding pork juice. Dumplings are best eaten when hot, so it’s worth the pain.
Din Tai Fung’s Shanghai-style rice cakes are some of the best in the Valley, pan-fried with spinach, onions and squiggles of pork. Din Tai Fung doesn’t skimp on hog meat, which is probably one of the reasons the flavor is so impressive.
Scissor cuts of pan-fried pork chop were plated on feathery fried rice folded with egg and scallion. Since Matt was taking photos, we granted him access to the prized on-the-bone pork.
Din Tai Fung offers four varieties of sautéed vegetables. We normally order the string beans, which are simply seared with minced garlic. We ordered the baby bok choy, which was cooked the same way, crisp and delicious.
Pulled crabmeat added a layer of briny complexity to the already-stellar juicy pork dumplings.
Steamed chicken dumplings are normally pretty bland, but Din Tai Fung improved upon the concept by incorporating flecks of ginger and cabbage.
Din Tai Fung’s steamed bao are probably L.A.’s best, simple orbs of fluffy dough encasing juicy pork patties.
Crimped, crescent-shaped steamed pork and shrimp dumplings were outstanding. They didn’t have the earlier burst of juice, but each dumpling contained a firm, sweet shrimp.
With their adjacent location, Din Tai Fung may have done nothing more than build a mirror image, but that image is still pretty spectacular.
January 24, 2009 at 2:59 AM
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