Din Tai Fung (Arcadia, California)

This post is Part II of the larger mini-series titled “A California Christmas.” The posts in this series include: Part I: Ten Ren Tea StationPart II: Din Tai FungPart III: Sushi Gen, Part IV: Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Restaurant, and Part V: Melisse.
DumplingChopstick
I love love love dumplings.  When I was in Taiwan back in April, we went to Din Tai Fung three times!!  And we were only there for five days!  Yeah, exactly.  I even passed on beef noodle soup while I was there to have more dumplings.  Call me crazy.  I know, I know, beef noodle soup is like Taiwan’s national dish.  *sigh* Maybe next time.  ANYWAY . . I digress.

The soup dumplings at Ding Tai Fung are amazing.  The skin is super thin, yet does not break.  It holds the hot soup perfectly (look at the picture above!).  When you bite into the soup dumpling, a gorgeous chorus of pork-crab soup flavors explodes into your mouth.  Finish the experience by chewing on the perfectly thin, stretchy-yet-unbreakable, “Q” skin that has been lovingly hand-rolled multiple times to achieve this texture.  Soooo delicious.
XiaoLongBao
So when I found out that the son of the Din Tai Fung founders wanted to open a new outpost in the US, I was beyond excited.  Finally!  I could taste these heavenly dumplings in my own country!  And only a 45-minute drive from Bryan’s parent’s home.  Definitely do-able.

It’s interesting to note that only the Taiwan and US locations are owned by the family. The remaining Din Tai Fung locations throughout the rest of Asia are actually franchises.  Fortunately, the rules and training requirements for opening a franchise are very strict, so I’m sure the dumplings at all the locations are delicious.
VegetarianDumpling
If you go . . .
Of course the soup dumplings are a MUST-GET, but there many other dumplings that are delicious as well.  My favorite steamed dumpling is the vegetable pork dumpling, which actually is mostly finely chopped vegetables, with only a hint of pork for flavor.  Since I love vegetables and I hate oily dumplings, this one is perfect for me.  It tastes relatively light, yet is still so flavorful.  And of course, the texture of the skin is fantastic.  The vegetable dumplings are also pretty good too.  They are filled with finely chopped vermicelli, greens, and possibly tofu.
WontonSoup
Bryan’s mom really likes the wonton soup.  The broth is delicious – clear, clean, yet flavorful at the same time. The wontons are also really good.  The skin is delicate and almost melts in your mouth, while the meat is moist and very flavorful.
XiaoLongBao - crab
Their signature dish is the juicy pork/crab soup dumpling, and is definitely worth getting! If you love crab, you’ll love the flavor of the soup inside this dumpling.  (Note, the more orange dumpling in the picture is the pork/crab soup dumpling while the other ones in the picture are the normal pork soup dumplings).
DingTaiFungWorkers
Like at all Din Tai Fung locations, you can watch the dumpling cooks hard at work hand-rolling out all the skins, filling the dumplings, and steaming them.  The operation itself is amazing to watch, as these guys churn out thousands of dumplings a day.  One noticeable difference between the Arcadia restaurant and the ones in Taiwan are that most of the workers here are Hispanic.
DingTaiFung1
How Does This Compare to Taiwan?
The food is definitely very close.  The menu is a bit more limited, though.  For example, my brother-in-law’s favorite dumpling, the dessert taro dumplings, are not available in the US location.  Also, there’s a particular charm about the original Din Tai Fung in Taiwan that is a bit lost here.  Nevertheless, the dumplings seem to be made with the same recipe and technique, and thus are still very delicious.  Definitely worth the trip – especially since it’s a lot cheaper than buying tickets to Taiwan!

Note: There are two addresses because they recently opened a new annex right next door (yes it’s THAT popular!)  Don’t worry! All of the food comes out of the same kitchen. I would recommend going early, especially on weekends, as the line gets really long!

Din Tai Fung
1088 and 1108 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007

Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon
Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve only been to the one in Taipei, but I always thought it was interesting that only men were making the dumplings, and it looks like in your picture that is true in Arcadia as well. I wonder why that is….

  2. says

    if u think ding tai fung is good, the xiao lung bao at shanghai cafe in NY will blow ur mind and reduce ding tai fung to second class material. no joke.

    i love ding tai fung and all but shanghai cafe is much much better. :)

  3. says

    I love Din Tai Fung! My mom was visiting and we took her there for Christmas dinner. Funny, we ordered the taro dessert dumplings, so maybe they only have those on certain days? Also, the soup dumplings are only served on weekends and they run out fast…!

  4. says

    Hi Jen,
    I don’t know if you remember me but I recently found your blog and LOVE it!!! You make me want to cook lovely, delicious yummies…a sentiment that passes quickly, though…then I just want to run to Arcadia for some XLB :)

    If you’re open to trying something new when you’re out here, there’s a longstanding argument on the chowhound boards about the best XLB in LA…J&J and Mei Long Village in San Gabriel often trump DTF, though I prefer the latter bc of the skins. But the other 2 IMHO have some better dishes than DTF’s non-XLB dishes (and their XLB are pretty good, too). Here’s one of the many links to the topic:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/671403

    Happy new year!

  5. says

    Joy – that’s a funny observation! I never noticed that!

    Wendycakes – that’s good news for me, as I live in Boston and NYC is just a bus ride away!

    Azusa – that’s awesome that they have the taro dumplings sometimes! I’ll have to let my brother-in-law know!

    “Jaia” – thanks for signing with your Boston name! Otherwise I may not have recognized your other name! Of course I remember you, and thanks for the XLB links!

  6. says

    Hey I have fond memories of Din Tai Fung in Taipei as well after living there for about 3 months. Our favourite place. And I too was very excited when they opened the Sydney branch a couple of years ago. It is very popular. The dumplings are excellent though not as perfect as the ones in Taipei. And the range on offer in Sydney is much smaller than the Taipei restaurant. Still, it is way better than nothing eh?! So nice to see we have the same food quest on opposite sides of the world!

  7. Ivan says

    Could I ask what’s so great about Din Tai Fung? I live 5 minutes away from there and never found it to be as good as numerous other restaurants that offer Xiao Lung Bao. In my opinion, not only is it super expensive compared to other places, but the flavor is not nearly as good!

  8. says

    Ivan – I personally love the dumplings at Din Tai Fung because of their chewy skin and also the vegetable to meat ratio (I love veggies and they use A LOT!). I’d love to hear your recommendations on the other good places in LA though (or maybe you are in Taiwan?) In any event, if there are better XLB places, please share!!!

  9. Ivan says

    Hi Jen,

    I’m actually in LA and only came back to this post to see if anyone had responded (I actually did not expect any responses). Anyhow, I think I prefer J&J in San Gabriel over Din Tai Fung for their XLB with crab meat. You’re right in that the skin is not as good, but the filling is my favorite! Unfortunately, though, coming from NY, I sorely miss all the yummy XLB that is always readily available…

  10. says

    Ivan – thanks for writing back! Yeah, last time was the first time I tried the crab dumpling, and I haven’t tried it anywhere else, so I can’t really compare. Like I said, my favorites are the vegetable-pork dumpling. I’ll have to check out your recommendation the next time I’m in LA though!

  11. says

    Just ran across your DTF entry and had to comment! You sound like us (eating there often) except we live in Taipei! We tend to go once a week or so and been to one in Japan and Singapore. LOL. I have not been to the Arcadia one and I’m originally from Los Angeles! It’s interesting to read your take on it as many people say the one here is much better than LA. I am going to try it when I come visit my folks next month. It’s hard to compete with here though! And they have new menu items here….Chicken xiao long bao (we tried them in Japan and were pretty good) and the best is black truffle and pork XLB!!!! $30 for 10 dumplings, but they are addicting! I took lots of photos of them today and will be writing a couple articles about the new stuff here.

    BTW, I hear there’s a Taiwenese shaved ice place near the DTF in Arcadia. Did you happen to try it? Our beloved Ice Monster closed here so I am going through withdrawals…need to hit a night market soon!

    Love your blog!

  12. ISD says

    I agree! It’s not bad, just not worth the price and hype in my opinion. At least the one in Arcadia, I haven’t been to the other locations (I used to live in Arcadia).

  13. says

    You might be referring to the one with konjac.  It was really popular when it first opened, and is near Din Tai Fong, although in a different plaza.  It’s right next door (or maybe 2 doors down, can’t remember) from Sin Bala.

    I think it’s the shopping center at Baldwin and Duarte (with the Chinese supermarket – NOT 99 – I think perhaps Arcadia Supermarket).  Sorry if I’m a little vague, I don’t live in the area anymore, so my memory is a little fuzzy.  But I tend to go there whenever I visit Cali.

  14. Eric says

    As a foodie myself, i must say i was ecstatic when I found out your blog, and I’m planning my upcoming christmas trip with my boyfriend based on your reviews. However, I must confess I’m a bit disappointed to see “DIN TAI FUNG,” particularly the Arcadia location on your blog. As a Taiwanese myself, I enjoy the dumpling just as much as you do. With that being said, I really think that DIN TAI FUNG is probably the most overrated restaurant in the whole Los Angeles Area… Other than the food and services are all mediocre, it really felt like just a gimmick (like “Benihana.”) Not to mention their pretentious “we don’t take no reservations” policy… Seriously?! even Joel Robuchon takes reservation… Well, it’s just my opinion… Other than that, I thought your blog is so tastefully done, and I’m sharing it with all my other foodies.

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