I had to move to Paris and come back to LA before I started being a true culinary adventurer in my own city. Sure, I'd go to the latest restaurant openings, but most fell into the California cuisine category, and many still do. Recently I did venture to San Gabriel Valley for some great dim sum at Capital Seafood Dim Sum, and then there was the horse tartare in Montreal, but this past weekend it was dumplings in Arcadia at the well-regarded Din Tai Fung.
If you're coming to Din Tai Fung you need to know a few things. If waiting in line, watching people slurp copious amounts of dumplings in front of you isn't your favorite thing to do on a weekend, then set your alarm, and get yourself to Arcadia (or Glendale or Seattle) about 15-20 minutes before the doors open. You will wait, but you won't have to watch others eat and wish for them to chew faster. When my group went the place was full at the opening time of 10am.
The next thing you need to know is that you're at Din Tai Fung for the dumplings, or xiao long bao. Don't worry, you can point, and you'll also get a paper menu laundry list that you can check off whatever you desire, and I'm going to say that most of what we had, you should desire.
You're going to have a bunch of different dumplings revolving around soup. The juicy pork and pork & crab dumplings will have a little broth inside, which means you need to establish your eating technique. Some like to use a chopstick to puncture a hole and then slurp before eating. I've seen others bite and suck, yes, we're still talking about dumplings. You can't go wrong.
There are also smaller dumplings that you can get on the weekend menu that you throw in a chicken broth for your own soup that uses a bowl,
The shrimp and pork shao mai are iconic with their cylinder wrapped package. They're delicious and flavorful so don't miss them.
When you over dose on dumplings, move to the Shanghai rice cake with its interesting and addictive chewy texture, mixed with a sweet sauce and shrimp.
The pork chop fried rice is also a winner with well seasoned pork over a way above average brown vegetable rice.
Did I mention to bring a group? Yeah, this isn't a solo sit at the counter and eat 10 pork dumpling situation, though if you did, my hat would be off to you.
I left fully satiated and very satisfied with the quality of the food and the great price, which all in was less than $20 per person. So go set your alarm and enjoy some dumplings this weekend.
Din Tai Fung
1088 S. Baldwin Avenue