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.
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.
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.
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).
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 :(.
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!
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 :).