Din Tai Fung (Taipei, Taiwan)

Din Tai Fung (Xinyi)
No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road, Daan District
Taipei, Taiwan
Dining date: 2/10/14

Din Tai Fung (Zhongxiao)
No. 218, Section 4, Zhōngxiào East Road, Daan District
Taipei, Taiwan
Dining date: 2/6/14

original din tai fung

A visit to Din Tai Fung was an absolute must for me while in Taiwan. In fact, I think it’s on a lot of tourist itineraries as the restaurant has a devoted following from all around the world. I was first introduced to Din Tai Fung’s xiaolongbao (and its oft-overlooked rest of the menu) when I moved to Los Angeles and have thoroughly enjoyed them ever since.

Din Tai Fung, which actually started as a shop selling cooking oil, has a number of locations in Taipei. I was able to try two of them – one near where we were staying in the Zhongxiao Dunhua area and the original location. The original location was crowded with tourists (the vast majority from throughout Asia), all eagerly waiting to dine where it all started. We arrived just after opening on a Monday morning to find a handful of people waiting. It was perfect timing as crowds came soon thereafter; by the time we left the restaurant, dozens waited outside for a seat.

DTF

The menu at both locations was significantly more robust than what I had seen in Los Angeles. All of the usual suspects were there – some small plates, soups, noodles, soup dumpling xiaolongbao, and both sweet and savory baos; however, Taipei locations seemed to have more options in each category. Most notably, there were a number of xiaolongbao options I had never seen before. Between our two meals, we dined on some old favorites and some new ones.

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San Tung (San Francisco, CA)

San Tung
1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Dining date: 12/24/12

san tung exterior

San Tung is consistently one of San Francisco’s most popular Chinese restaurants, known for its long waits almost as much as its food. Located in the Sunset district of the city, the first-come first-served restaurant always seems to have a crowd waiting outside, especially on the weekends. Its 3,000+ Yelp reviews (currently a 4-star rating) place it in the top 10 of most-reviewed S.F. restaurants and I feel like I always hear it mentioned when people talk about “must-try” dishes in the city.

What’s the must-try dish? San Tung is known for noodles and dumplings, but their real signature is their “dry fried” items. Shrimp, calamari, flounder, beef and chicken are fried by the batch here, then glazed in a sweet-savory sauce. The most popular, by far, is the chicken wings.

We came early on a Monday for lunch and got one of the last tables available.

san tung interior

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Din Tai Fung (Arcadia, CA)

Din Tai Fung
1108 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007
Dining date: 7/30/11

Din Tai Fung is the type of restaurant I hear about even when I go home to San Francisco. “Have you heard of this restaurant in Arcadia…” or “you should try this dumpling place called Din Tai Fung.” It’s no wonder why – with three locations in the US and branches all over Asia and in Australia, it’s arguably the most famous place in SoCal to get dumplings (xiao long bao in particular).

Needless to say, a restaurant like this comes with pretty high expectations (and long lines). I’ve found almost everyone fits into one of two camps: love it, or find it overrated and overpriced. If you were to ask me where I fell a couple years ago it was probably the latter; however, today I would say it’s closer to the former.

Upon entering, you can see fresh dumplings being made. Love that.

House Chicken Noodle Soup (Steamed)

This might be my favorite item here. The chicken broth is perfect with its well-salted, hearty chicken flavor. The noodles, made fresh, have a delectable chew. It’s really simple, but it’s something that really resonates with me.

Shanghai Rice Cake with Chicken

I liked the nice chew to the rice cakes, lightly coated in a sauce that I think was oyster sauce. Some onions lended a little bit of fresh crunch too. 

Juicy Pork Dumplings

The pièce de résistance – xiao long bao. The best xiao long bao in LA is a controversial argument…mine are here. The dumplings are always filled with a rich, savory juice but it’s the skin that separates these for me. Thin, stretchy and delicate, I really liked that the dough took backseat to the meat and juice with these dumplings.

Shrimp & Pork Dumplings

I liked these as well. Plump pieces of shrimp made up the bulk of the filling, as well as a little bit of the juice.

Vegetarian Dumplings

I found these to be just okay. Relative to their meaty counterparts, I found these dumplings to be rather dry with a dense, woodsy flavor. Probably pretty healthy, though.

Sauteed String Beans with Garlic

Tasty garlic string beans, cooked quickly in a wok. I liked the gentle texture still left in the beans, but I don’t think these were a uniquely better example though.

Noodles with Spicy Sauce

 

Love the noodles here. They were smothered in a sweet-spicy sauce that I enjoyed.

The perfect dessert was a milk tea from the nearby Ten Ren’s Tea Time. I’m very picky about my milk teas, but this one is one of my favorites.

Din Tai Fung definitely does not present the best value in the SGV as most of their items are at the upper end of their respective price ranges. However, I think the execution is top-notch, and they serve some of my favorite noodles and dumplings in the city. And given the oft-long lines, it’s hard to say they’re charging too much for the food.

Dean Sin World – 4/10/10

Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Dean Sin World is a sort of hole-in-the-wall Chinese spot in a Monterey Park strip mall specializing mainly in baked goods and dumplings. I wouldn’t say it’s yet in the collective conscience, but is well-known among food bloggers and Yelp.

The interior is spartan, as you can see below. Hey, an A rating!

The menu has a pretty wide array of baked goods, noodles and dumplings. You can also buy many of their dumplings frozen by the bag of 50.

After our order, we were served complimentary peanuts with seaweed. I think this simple dish is actually pretty good, and would make good snacking.

Another complimentary dish that came out was this fried tofu and bamboo shoots. I didn’t really care for this dish.

The first dish of our dishes that came out was this spicy wonton. This is the same wonton that is served in their ge-chai wonton soup, but served with a chili oil instead. I wouldn’t call this spicy, but the chili oil provided some nice flavor.

The next has to be one of their most popular items, the xiao long bao. These juicy pork dumplings are quite delicious, and quite a bargain at 10 for $5.

Another popular dish is their beef noodle soup. It’s a heaping bowl of egg-y noodles in a very rich beefy broth. A generous portion of tender braised beef shank is added atop.

The bowl is filled pretty much to the brim with a lot of noodles. I tend to prefer the noodles a bit more al dente here, but they’re good nonetheless, and held up well even when sitting in the soup for a while. I tend to prefer brisket in my beef noodle soup, as the meat is easier to separate from the tendon (with shank, the tendon is interspersed throughout the meat).

Next was the pancake with beef.

This is a crispy pancake/crepe wrapped around layers of beef and greens. Pretty good.

This was my third trip here, and it was as satisfying as the last couple. There’s some really great food here, comforting to the soul. The owners are very warm and hospitable, and the prices can’t be beat. I’m surprised this restaurant has not really caught on yet, but I figure it’s only a matter of time until this small restaurant has lines out the door.