Happy Boxing Day!
Can you believe Christmas is already over? I swear this year whirled by.
Bryan and I spent Christmas with Bryan's family in Orange County where he grew up. I always love coming to California during the holidays. The weather is fantastic; it's always so nice to see his family (they treat me just like one of their own, if not better!); and . . . the food!
In the past, his parents have always made a point to take us to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, which they knew to be one of my favorite restaurants. This year, we didn't need to make the 45-minute trek to Arcadia. Instead, for the first time, the newest Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza was open.
We knew that the mall would be crazy during the holiday shopping season, so we tried showing up right around 11:15am.
Despite the fact that there was a line wrapping around the outside of the restaurant (with waits hovering around 45 minutes), we were able to walk in and immediately be seated.
South Coast Plaza is the highest grossing mall in America and boasts pretty much every single high-end flagship store you can imagine. As a result, this particular Din Tai Fung is noticeable more upscale than other Din Tai Fungs around the world and includes a full-service bar right at the entrance. The full dinner menu is available at the bar, so from a food perspective, it's identical. Even though there might be a long line outside, you'll likely land a bar seat much more quickly especially if your party is small. On the day we went, the bar was pretty empty and we immediately grabbed seats for our party of three. Even if the seats are full, there is a separate (much shorter) line for the bar seats.
Similar to every single other Din Tai Fung in the world, visitors can gawk at the chefs making dumplings through a window. If you've never seen it before, it's kind of fun.
They painstakingly weigh out each piece of dough to make sure it's a certain weight. It's fascinating to watch the expert hands so quickly form the intricate folds in each dumpling.
Because we're in Southern California, there's also the option of outdoor dining. The overall available dining area is, in fact, huge and fits quite a lot of people. It's still not enough, however, evidenced by the long lines that form outside the restaurant.
Of course, we had to start with our standard favorite, the crab and pork soup dumpling (xiaolongbao). These were solid, very similar to the ones that we've enjoyed in the Arcadia location.
We were thrilled to see the truffle + pork dumplings (at a pretty price of $22 for five dumplings!), something I fell in love with when I first tried it in Asia. The truffle flavor was quite nice. It was a bit more subtle than the ones I remember from Shanghai or Beijing, with the pork flavor being just a bit more pronounced. It was my favorite dumpling of the night, though I still prefer the ones I've had in China.
The Potstickers, or pan-fried dumplings, were excellent, with a delicate, paper-thin crispy bottom and a flavorful and juicy pork filling.
The Pork and Vegetable Dumplings, which are 80% vegetable and 20% pork, were good and a tasty way to get our veggies.
We ordered a side of Stir Fried Mustard Greens with Ginger, which was quite healthy and light - barely salted and not a bit greasy.
All in all, we had a great lunch catching up with one of my old college friends. The only downsides of sitting at the bar are the lack of windows and the smaller eating area. I personally struggled with the food photos due to the lack of natural light. Additionally, there's a little less table space, so it did feel a bit tight (though manageable!) when multiple steamers of dumplings started coming out all at once.
Other than that, it was a perfectly fine experience. The service was good; the food was delicious, and we had a great time.
It's so much more convenient to come here than to drive all the way to Arcadia. Typically around the holiday season, we find ourselves shopping at South Coast Plaza anyway, so it's easy to eat here. I have a feeling that we won't be going to Arcadia very much anymore now that this Din Tai Fung is here.
It's just way to convenient!
Other Din Tai Fung Posts
Din Tai Fung Arcadia (California)
Din Tai Fung Singapore (Marina Bay Sands)
Din Tai Fung Sydney (Australia)
Din Tai Fung Bellevue (Washington)
Din Tai Fung Beijing and Shanghai (China)
Din Tai Fung Taipei (Taiwan)