Friday, November 13, 2015

Southern California's BEST Soup Dumplings at Din Tai Fung!

DIN TAI FUNG!  DTF for short! (and get your mind out of the gutter please!)  The mention of these three words gets my mouth salivating for those soft pillows of shrimp and pork goodness all wrapped up in a delicate wrapper and steamed to perfection.  With locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Orange County, I happily hop in my car and make that drive to Costa Mesa for the one located in South Coast Plaza. I have been to DTF twice now and my visits have always ended up with me in nirvana, a xiao long bao induced kind.

DTF opens at 11 am on weekdays and 10 am on weekends.  People start lining up as early as half an hour before they open.  The line moves pretty quickly. When you get to the front, they'll ask for your name and number of people in your party and input them into a tablet. You'll also give your phone number and you will receive a text when it is time to report to the check-in desk.  On my first visit we arrived fifteen minutes before they opened and there was already a line.  We got seated right away though.  On our second visit, we arrived an hour and fifteen minutes after they opened and waited almost an hour until we got seated.

The Orange County location is pretty big, with inside and outside dining areas. There is even a room for private events.

The wait may have you starving by the time you get seated. And to whet your appetite even more, you pass by an open exhibition kitchen where skilled workers are making the noodles, wrappers and filling dumplings right there for all to see. Its amazing how fast they work assembly line style!
When you're seated, you are given an order slip to fill out.  We actually looked at the menu during our wait time and pre-decided what to order so we were ready to submit the form when our server came to ask us what we wanted to drink. This helped expedite our food.

These were our drinks. In front is sea salt cream green tea, and peach and mango slushies in the back, all available to order with or without boba (tapioca pearls).

I ordered a honey lemonade and it was sweet with a slight tartness. I loved it!

Our party cheered when the food started coming out! We didn't wait long for the appetizers.

These marinated cucumbers were crisp and had the right balance of sweet and sour! Very refreshing! I would definitely order this again.

Next were green beans with garlic and spinach with garlic.

The green beans were a popular dish as I noticed many other diners ordered it.  Both were what you would expect it to taste like, pretty good and they added greens to our meal!

Rounding out our appetizers was the hot and sour soup.  I haven't seen one with so many ingredients. The wood ear mushrooms added a great texture to the soup. You can literally see the drops of chili oil in the soup, but it wasn't spicy enough to make me pant like a puppy.  My daughter really liked this dish.

The next dish that arrived was minced pork on top of noodles.  I think of this as the Taiwanese version of spaghetti. It was a challenge to grab the slippery noodles with my ceramic chopsticks. At the end, I gave up. It wasn't that tasty enough for me to request a fork.

Here are the two dishes I come to DTF for!  First up, Spicy Pork and Shrimp Wontons! 
I like some heat, but not where I end up perspiring and having to wipe my forehead.  I don't think any lady would want to be in that predicament. This wasn't at that level, I would rate this dish as medium heat, so just the right amount for me!  The bite of the sauce with the smoothness of the wonton wrapper is a diner's delight!  The sauce itself is yummy over some steamed rice.  This is a must-have dish if you go.

And of course, the #1 item at DTF is the XIAO LONG BAO (XLB), the Soup Dumplings! Let me take a second to share with you that my family is made up of #soupdumplingaddicts! When we find out there's a restaurant that serves XLB, wherever we're at we'll go try it out! From San Francisco to San Diego and anywhere in between.  On our first visit to DTF, we ordered the weekend special of the mini ones, 20 pieces per order. But after tasting them, they just weren't juicy enough. Too small. 

We ended up ordering the regular sized ones too.
See the difference? I need a regular size whole dumpling to crack open and slurp up the soup lurking inside. Then I dip it in the vinegar sauce and pop the whole thing in my mouth to devour.  Next to the XLB that we had in the Bay Area at Shanghai Dumpling King, the ones at Din Tai Fung are my next favorite!

I don't like dumplings that have too thick of a wrapper, it overpowers the filling when you taste them. The dumplings here are sturdy enough so that they don't tear when you pick them up with chopsticks and they are generously filled with the gelatinous soup!  Feel free to slurp away! Believe me, order two of these and two of the spicy wonton dish.  You'll finish them! We had a party of five and probably could have eaten one more order! 

Part of the tangy taste of XLB is the soy sauce-vinegar-shredded ginger dipping sauce component. Here our server mixed the typical ratio of 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part vinegar, but of course you can make it to your liking. Hot chili paste is available to mix in too.

To end our feast, we ordered the 8 treasure rice! Notice the round shapes of all the "treasures". Plus the "8" figure itself is made of infinite loops.  My loose translation,  round shapes for coins = money = good fortune.

This dessert reminded me of  the Thai mango sticky rice dessert and also Filipino biko. Unfortunately you'll have to visit Din Tai Fung yourself to get exactly what the 8 treasures are from the staff as I didn't write them down! Here's a link to an article that tells you more about it!

This place is also kid-friendly. I mean just look at the cute dumpling mascot in the front of the restaurant welcoming you in.  

They had adorable dinnerware too for the kids. Honestly, I would buy this if they sold it and use it at home for myself!  

Days later, my friends and I were still talking about the delicious food! That's how much of an impression DTF makes. In my opinion, these are Southern California's BEST soup dumplings! Gather your friends and get DTF - Get Down To Feast at Din Tai Fung! We're already planning our next visit! 

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