Trailing on the coattails of Yoko's earlier Umamiventure post to the SAME EXACT RESTAURANT in Tokyo, I am finally ready to unveil the greatness that was Din Tai Fung (DTF) in LA. The only outpost in the U.S. of this legendary Taiwanese restaurant!! As you'll see, the dumplings look suspiciously similar to the ones they had in Tokyo... there must be some sort of International DTF Dumpling University. Sign me up!
It was on a stickysweaty hot September morning in LA that 15 of us came together from all over the city to share the magic of soup dumplings (aka xiao long bao aka XLB) at the famed DTF in The Valley. Most of us had been stuck on the Highway 10, the 110, the 405, or a combination thereof, for up to an hour as the infamous bumper-to-bumper traffic erupted--before noon, WTF?!--simultaneously with our hunger. Grrrr.
But we all made it, albeit starving, for the love of the XLB. What does this tell you? Soup dumplings bring strangers and lovers together, as do Umamiventures. Hell Yes! Thanks to everyone for making it out- per usual, this post is interspersed with comments by those who attended. Mucho love!
DTF was well worth the drive to Arcadia and the stop and go traffic on the 10. I was pretty amazed at how quickly they were able to seat a party of 15 considering how packed the entire restaurant was.
The crab+pork XLB were tiny jewels of perfection. Look at how there is no soup on the spoon- instead, it oozes out into your mouth, all in one bite. Like oysters, they were velveteen morsels of luxury. They were like fluffy cotton pillows of goodness!
Crab+pork juicy pork dumplings.
I had so much fun. It was nice to spend time with other people who have a penchant for XLB like I do. This Shanghai specialty is hard to come by and DTF has some of the best. The pork stuffing is soft and juicy. No gristle or hard bits.
Eater beware: if you bite into the soup dumplings too soon, you may suffer first degree burns in your mouth and throat.
Dumplings were quite delicious - the crab+pork were quite tasty, but the juicy pork dumplings were simply the best. Veggie dumplings the only bland ones.
Steamed pork and green vegetable dumpling.
A UM reader who couldn't make it suggested to me to get the fish dumplings. They were also moist and had a bit of crunch from some sort of green. Note the colors- so pristine how clear the fish is, it's as though it's a bit raw still, although they were perfectly cooked.
Like the ones in Tokyo, the shrimp+pork shiaomai were these darling little frou-frou creations. So original and cute!!!
The bell of the XLB ball was the shrimp and pork dumplings, moist meat, perfect dough overall a yummy dumpling! Perfect hangover food.
It was a little hard to differentiate the taste of the ginger/vinegar combo from the actual broth of the dumplings, but it was still fun to use all the sauce amenities.
Juicy steamed pork bun with vinegar and ginger sauce.
The hot sauce/mix should not be overlooked - it was instrumental in the process.
I thought allllll the noodles were fantastic, especially the sesame noodle and beef noodle bowls, but then again, I am a noodle monster.
House beef noodle soup.
The noodles were great too, but a bit challenging to share.
The noodles were good, but not great.
I loved the noodles, Gabe!!! The beef noodles and the soup actually came out separately, and they poured the broth over the silky noodles at the table. Nice touch! The noodles with minced meat were totally bomb- look at the edamame! Simply gorgeous. I know my brother would agree with me on this last point- we still talk about it when we talk to this day.
Noodles with minced meat and tofu.
My fave dishes were the pork soup dumplings and the sautéed green beans.
The green beans are not to be missed. The rice cakes (mochi?) were also fantastic.
Shanghai rice cake with chicken.
Yah, the rice cakes were a delight- very different from say, lo mein or chow fun since they were more dense. As Gabe said, like mochi.
At the end of the meal, I accidentally ordered the steamed pork buns, when I meant to get more soup dumplings, but they were also delicious.
Here's our well-oiled check-- we were all seriously foodcomaing by meal's end. Man, we ate like kings. But it came out to only $20/head!!! AMAZING!!!
I also loved that they had directions written on the chopsticks on how to eat a dumpling. Great touch.
Everything is so easy to order, even when the line is out the door you don't have to wait too long, and they are on top of it there. It's not a traditional dim sum restaurant so don't expect that environment (but it's close). I mean to try different places out in the San Gabriel Valley but always end up back at DTF. One day when I go to Tokyo I will for sure go to that one.
Service was impeccable. Felt a bit like a factory, but the price is tough to beat. If you want a more homey feel, go to Mei Long Village.
I have to agree- the service was unlike I have ever had at a dimsum/Chinese joint. Plus the quality of all the food was exceptionally note-worthy. Here are the folks making dumplings in the open kitchen. Pretty neat slash creepy with the protected window.
LA Umamiventure #18 LOVERS!!! Thank you so much to everyone for coming out!!
PS- There are two locations of DTF now, one around the corner from the other. I have a hunch the kitchens may be connected. We went to the snazzy, newer one.
DIN TAI FUNG
1108 or 1088 South Baldwin Avenue
*Umamiventues are organized monthly, traveling far and wide to find good, cheap grub off the beaten path.
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Past Umamiventures include:
1.) Ocean Jewel Restaurant - Flushing, NYC; June 2007
2.) Red Hook Ball Fields - NYC; June 2007
3.) Taste of Jackson Heights - NYC; October, 2007
4.) Sripraphai Restaurant - Woodside, NYC; November 2007
5.) WINTERMARKET - South St. Seaport; December 2007
6.) Jackson Diner- Jackson Heights, NYC; January 2008
7.) Pacificana - Sunset Park, NYC; February 2008
8.) Puerto Alegre - The Mission, SF; March 2008
9.) Dinosaur BBQ - Harlem, NYC; April 2008
10.) Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden - Astoria, NYC; May 2008
11.) Brooklyn Banh Mi Crawl - Sunset Park, NYC; August 2008
12.) Sheapshead Bay Lobster Crawl - NYC; September 2008
13.) Flushing Food Circuit - NYC; October 2008
14.) Strong Beer Month - SF; March 2009
15.) Loisaida Throwback Crawl - NYC; April 2009
16.) Harley Farms Goat Dairy - Pescadero, CA; June 2009
17.) Tomales Bay Oyster Farm - Marshall, CA; August 2009