Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐

As a sucker for dumplings, I was super stoked to make my trip to Din Tai Fung.

Din Tai Fung is a very renowned restaurant most well known for their soup dumplings, aka. xiao long bao, originally located in Taiwan.  Today, we can find several branches of this restaurant all over the world.  If you’re local to the Bay Area and haven’t heard already, they’re opening a branch in Santa Clara inside Westfield Valley Fair very soon.  And as for me, as I’m on another work excursion, I’ve found myself in OC in close proximity to a Din Tai Fung.  How can I turn down such an opportunity?

This particular branch is located in Costa Mesa, inside the South Coast Plaza shopping mall.  As for today’s review, it’ll be a bit different than usual because I ordered takeout as opposed to eating in.  I decided to dodge the lines, as I’ve heard every branch has approximately an hour wait .  I’m also not too keen on eating alone in restaurants (not that there is problem with that though…props to you if you do it!!).  One quick tip if you decide to follow my route and do takeout, they do take orders over the phone.  They don’t take reservations, though.  So what I did was call in with my order and then drop by 20 minutes later to pick it up.

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Din Tai Fung Entrance.  Look at that line!

What I found amusing inside the restaurant was the area where you see the chefs make the soup dumplings.  The process of creating the dumplings is very precise, from dumpling dough wrapper to the filling!  Everything was measured on a scale to ensure consistent weight before proceeding.

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A peek into the dumplings in the making – precision of measurement of the dumpling wrappers.

Now, onto the food!  I ordered a number of things.  Let me start with the most anticipated item.  The truffle and pork xiao long bao’s.  I was most curious about this item, seeing that it was the most expensive ($22.5) item for the least amount (5 pc) of food.  I guess, I am not too familiar with fancy ingredients, and truffle is definitely up there on the list.  The dumpling remained soupy, enclosed by the thin and sturdy dumpling wrapper.  The truffle was infused into the pork meat, with an occasional crunch from a large piece of truffle.  The flavour was light yet the aroma was strong.  I wouldn’t recommend dipping this in vinegar in order to taste the truffle flavour.  The verdict for this is that it was interesting to try.  However, if you’re here to be full and stay in budget, I would refrain from ordering this.  I probably would NOT order this again if I were to come back.

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The contents of the soup dumpling – truffle and pork thoroughly mixed.

Since this is known for their soup dumplings, of course one plate is not enough.  I also ordered a serving of crab and pork xiao long bao’s.  This one was a lot reasonable in price, 10pc for $11.5.  The divvy of ingredients for each dumpling was 1/3 crab and 2/3 pork.  The flavour was light with a hint of seafood flavour.  Unlike the truffle dumpling, I recommend dipping this in vinegar.  To me, it was so light it was almost borderline bland. Another critical point is that wrapper is so thin on the sides, I found the center which holds the wrapper together was hard and extremely doughy, which I didn’t really like (although this may have been because I did takeout and didn’t eat this immediately which resulted it to be cold).

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A closeup on the crab and pork dumpling.  Light with a touch of seafood in flavour.

On the side, I ordered some spinach to keep some green in my life.  Kids, don’t forget to eat your greens!  Haha.  This was a typical Chinese dish, spinach and garlic.  I originally tried to order the spinach with bean curd & wine, but this location was no longer making that dish :(.

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Nothing too special about this, but can’t leave out the spinach :).

And to top off this enormous order for one, I present the most delicious item!  Wontons in spicy sauce!  A Taiwanese friend told me this was actually his favourite dish from the whole restaurant and I completely agree.  I was originally debating if I should order it since I can’t handle spicy food, but after telling waitress to put in a note to try to lighten up on the spicy oil, I sure am glad I ordered it.  The wontons had that fresh-shrimp-bounchy-crunchy texture, if you know what I’m talking about.  The sauce was a pow in the face, flavourful, sweet and spicy sauce.  I chowed this down so quick I didn’t even realize I finished it!

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Wonton in spicy sauce – absolutely delicious!

 

All in all, it was a fun experience, and the soup dumplings were not a letdown seeing that the wrappers were thin and there was lots of soup inside.  If any improvements, I just wish there was a bit more flavour in the soup.  The wontons in spicy sauce are also a MUST GET.

I’m be looking forward to the opening in the Santa Clara branch!  Maybe there will be a comparison in food between the difference locations :).

Din Tai Fung Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

-ksdn.

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Sushi Kashiba

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted (eek, in 2015!), but life has been very busy and I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for work.  But by all means, that means…more opportunities to try out some fancy food spots!

This time, I’ve made my way all the way to Seattle, with the greatest anticipation of making a visit to Chef Shiro, the disciple of well known Chef Jiro of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”.  If you guys haven’t had a chance to check out the movie, it’s a must watch!  It demonstrates the beauty of sushi-making and emphasizes the complexities and aspects of sushi that are not often acknowledged.  Haha, I mean, let’s be real, sometimes it’s hard to see beyond a piece of raw fish slabbed over a small rice ball.

To provide a little bit of background, this restaurant is in Seattle.  In fact, the original restaurant was called “Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant”.  This was where I had originally planned to go to.  Fortunately, a local told me that Chef Shiro doesn’t actually serve sushi at that restaurant anymore!  Ironic, given it’s name, right?!  After some further investigation, I found that he recently opened a new restaurant, which is *drum roll please*….Sushi Kashiba!  And if you are interested in SEEING Chef Shiro, he has Tuesday’s off..so don’t go on a Tuesday if you care to see him!

The atmosphere was surprisingly Americanized, I found.  There were also a ton of people, which was a lot noisier than what I had expected.  In terms of dress code, I would recommend looking you know, presentable.  There were quite a number of business casual dressed people.  And for you people going on dates, this the perfect place ;).

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Located at the Seattle’s signature Pike Place Market’s entrance.

Ok, time to cut the chit chat, let’s get into the actual meal.  We all ordered the Seattle Sushi dinner each, which comprises of 11 different nigiri’s along with daily rolls and some chef selected appetizers and dessert.

The appetizer consisted of two different dishes.  First came a sampler dish, comprising of a compilation of conch & broccolini and a the other being a bite of red snapper gelatin fat jello served over a slice of cucumber.  I’m not such a big fan of conch to begin with, but that bite definitely had a punch of several textures.  The snapper gelatin, on the other hand, was super delish!  If I had to describe it as another food, it’s almost similar to the Chinese cold cut turkey gelatin, but with red snapper!  I love fish, and the gelatin melted in my mouth with the soft perfectly cooked texture of fish.  I wish I had more than just one of those on my plate :'(.

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Broccolini & conch brushed with sweet soy sauce (left), with red snapper gelatin over cucumber (right).

Following the sampler plate came the salad which was what the chef named “New York Chowder Salad”.  The base of the salad was made of prosciutto.  The clams were topped over the salad with some braised leeks, fried onion rings drizzled with a creamy sauce and accompanied with some tomato jam.  I found this very light and delicious!  I’m not a big fan of salads but I managed to finish this no problem.  Though, the fact that I loooooove prosciutto helped a lot, hehe.

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“New York Manhattan Clam Chowder” Salad.

And the long awaited!  Main course!  We were all so stoked for these to come!  For those who don’t know, nigiri is style of preparation of sushi with, usually, a slice of fish over a ball of sushi rice.  If served properly and traditionally, nigiri should contain a small slab of wasabi between the fish and rice, glazed with a brush of soy sauce.  With that said, it should not require any additional dipping of wasabi/soy sauce.  We were served two rounds of nigiri’s.

For the first plate, the fish was mostly comprised of the tuna selection with a few additional fish.  We were told to eat them from left to right, top to bottom.  Throughout our journey of this dish, we found that the fish textures went from left to right, soft to bold/thicker/meatier.  My favourite, no question, was the fattiest tuna, toro.  It was so creamy and buttery, it literally melted once it entered my mouth!

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Plate 1 (L-R, top T-B): Albacore tuna, bluefin lean tuna, maguro seared zuke, toro, thai snapper, flounder.

The second dish, comprised of a larger variety of fish.  The server also introduced us to where the seafood was originally from – ranging from the Americas, to Europe, to Japan itself.  Salmon, which is always my go-to sushi, and never a letdown.  I also loved the fresh water eel.  The daily rolls, though, were kinda meh. I’m not that big of maki rolls, especially “spicy”anything roll.  I guess it just doesn’t come off as very classic to me.

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Plate 2 (L-R, T-B): Ebi big shrimp (from Hawaii), hamachi (from Japan), salmon (from Scotland), in-house smoked mackerel (from Japan), sea water eel (from US), spicy tuna roll and some type of white fish roll.

A lot was going on, because even after, we were served dessert!  So many mini courses, right?  Haha, well, dessert was quite simple, ending with a warm toasty miso soup and a sweet tamagoyaki.  It’s hard to make a standout miso soup, but this was good thanks to the tofu.  It was extremely smooth.  The tamagoyaki, also the last thing I ate, was so satisfying!  What a great finale to a memorable meal.  The presentation of the egg was so cute, cut in half, in a very clean brick shape.  The texture of the egg was also very dense but fluffy, if that even makes sense.  Aside from the texture, the flavour was also a lot sweeter than usual tamagoyaki.  This really was a good cherry on top of a sundae.

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The oh, so simple tamagoyaki.

And that ends the entire meal!  This tallied up to a total of $75 USD + tax, which I find it really reasonable given that it is sushi served by a renowned chef.  One last tip, I strongly recommend making reservations.  It was extremely crowded even on a weekday night, even at 8:30pm.  You don’t need to make reservations a lot in advance, I changed mine a couple of times even the day before my reservation.  As busy as the restaurant is, I was surprised to see that they even take reservations!  So make them to guarantee your spot!

Hope you guys had as much fun as me during your visit!

Sushi Kashiba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

-ksdnlee