Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Din Tai Fung
Baldwin and East Duarte, Arcadia
Is anything as good as what it's hyped up to be? I always get skeptical now, because I've been let down so many times. For instance, Matrix Re-cycled and Re-crappy. And Star Wars pre-regurgitation. Been disappointed too many times, that's the bottom line. So when I heard of a "really good dumpling place", I instantly thought, it can't be THAT good.

More on the hype train, when I looked up some info on Din Tai Fung, it's the only one of this chain that's even in the United States? Whoa. Okay, that's kinda huge. And I do like me some good Xiao Long Baos (soup dumplings). I gave in and decided to roll with it, even with the huge wait time. And wait we did! When we finally got there, the place was packed on the OUTSIDE, with families huddled underneath umbrellas to escape from the boiling heat bearing down upon all of us. Our friends already had a number. Lady who called out the numbers (in english and in mandarin) taunted us so, calling out numbers past ours (bigger parties where the tables freed up). My brain started to melt a little as the sun's rays superheated my black hair, creating massive head heat cloud around me. Our number was called! Quick quick quick to our seats...finally inside, what did we decide to eat?
Chicken soup was our first dish. I know this might look weird to people used to seeing Campbell's condensed chicken soup (preservative city!) . If you are one of those people, seeing real chicken pieces in soup might be a bit of a shock to you, but here is Din Tai Fung's version of chicken soup, what I'd like to see ALL chicken soup to be like. Big pieces of boiled down chicken, goosebumpy pale skin and all, seeped in a flavory broth. The pieces of chicken were great to dunk in the little dish of vinegar and soy sauce mixture that was meant for the dumplings... ...And what delicious dumplings they were! These are the pork xiao long baos, freshly made from the team of expert dumpling makers behind glass (so you can voyeristically watch them hehe). The proper etiquette of the xiao long bao eater: carefully grab the dumpling, nestle it in chinese soup spoon. Bite a little bit off the top, suck out as much soup as possible. Nab some soy saucey-vinegar ginger, add to dumpling, eat. A bit complicated but an experience to be had! The wrappers to these guys are thick enough to hold in the flavorful soup, but thin enough not to be too gooey or overwhelming. The meat inside is juicy, very well accented by the soysauce mixture. Once it rains it pours - dishes started coming to the table left and right. Here are some shrimp steamed dumplings. Nothing much to say about these, they didn't suck but they didn't blow my mind. The shrimp was kind of mashed up into it, so I don't know how many shrimps were contained in each of these. A plate of chicken and veggie rice cake. I thought it was alright, but maybe too filling, because of the rice cakes. Like eating big salty marshmallows. You eat like 3 and they inflate in your stomach. Then you become the Stay Puft rice cake man. More carby- carbs! Sticky rice and meat filled dumplings were thrown on our table, when all of us had assumed we had gotten all we had ordered. We plunged in anyways. I thought these were a very distinctive shape, and really enjoyed these, although I was feeling a little too full by that point.
Onto dessert...red bean paste dumplings. I liked these more than I thought I would, because the red bean was so sugary potent. The red beans were mashed into sweet bean paste, so no lumpy bean parts. Here's a closeup of the inside of one of these little guys's insides...like a cow eye dissection back in grade school! 'Cept you get to eat it. Now that I think about it, these are starting to look like cow eyes...ANYWAYS, they were good and we were glad this was our last order.

Din tai fung was good in spite of the hype, but pricier than I would have liked it to be (dimsum, I usually get away with no more than 10 dollars apiece, whereas here was like 14 dollars each.) Not like they're hurting for business with their higher price point. When coming here, remember a key word...PATIENCE. Don't go here after a 5 mile run. You'll starve before they can find you a table.

No comments: