Monday, April 16, 2018

Din Tai Fung, Costa Mesa, CA

Din Tai Fung.  The famous chain, known for the dumplings (particularly the xiaolongbao), for the fact that some of the locations have Michelin stars, and, uh, for epic waits.

My only actual experience with Din Tai Fung so far was in Sydney, a few years ago, when I visited a streamlined food court version, and wasn't very impressed.  My hotel in Seattle was right next to a Din Tai Fung, and I planned to go while I was there, yet never found the time (I was too busy eating poke and attending team events.

My time in Costa Mesa almost went the same way.  I had lots of poke (delivered to me from Cubed Poke), and went to a couple team dinners (where we had some incredible desserts), but on my final afternoon, I was determined.  The problem?  I had a huge feast for breakfast my hotel restaurant, Silver Trumpet.  

Thus, I opted for just a snack at Din Tai Fung, rather than a full meal, but I'm glad I did.  It inspired me to go for a real meal ... next time I am near a Din Tai Fung location.
Takeout Snack!
My order was fairly simple, since I was alone, and just wanted a snack: one noodle dish, one dessert bun.  It was hard to pick just one of each, but, I went for the most recommended item I could find (besides the XLB) for my savory, and the type of sweet dessert bun I wanted most.
This entrance was the exterior one, not as used as the one from inside the mall.  It looks so peaceful here right?

Ha.  The other entrance was a madhouse, with lines everywhere (a line to put your name down, a line for if you had been called back, a line for takeout orders, a second line for once you had been called back and verified ...), and a 3 hour quoted wait time, even for a single diner.  I opted for takeout, which was basically my plan anyway.
Watching the dumpling action.
A signature element of Din Tai Fung is the dumpling kitchen, and this location was no different from others, big windows overlooking the dumpling making, filled with kids and bored waiting customers.
Nicely Bagged!
No generic takeout bags at Din Tai Fung, no, I got to walk away with a very distinctive, really quite nice bag.

It did feel wasteful tossing it in the trash so soon after though.
Vegetable & Pork Wontons with Spicy Sauce.
The wontons with spicy sauce top everyone's list of recommended dishes, even though not the signature dishes.  Available in shrimp & pork or vegetable & pork, I went with veggie & pork, mostly just a random pick.

I didn't take a photo since I wanted to devour while still hot, but the wontons actually came packaged separately from the sauce, a nice touch.  I immediately just poured the sauce on and dug in.

This was very good.  I'm sure it suffered a bit from takeout, but, really, it was good.

The order was 8 wontons, all large size, loaded with ground pork and minced veggies.  Plump, moist, flavorful filling.  The wrappers were also good, not too think, not too thin, fresh pasta.  The wontons did clump together a bit since packaged on their own, but still, clearly very well made.

The sauce was interesting.  It was spicy, for sure, but not fire-y spicy, just a bit ... well, spicy.  I think was soy based and had some chili oil perhaps?  It was very flavorful, without being overpowering.  I really liked the complex flavor, and lapped it all up, even once the wontons were gone.

I see why people recommend this dish.
Taro Bun Packaging.
I couldn't resist getting a dessert too.

For dessert buns, I could pick taro, sesame, or red bean filled, all sold individually.  Or, I could have opted for sweet xiaolongbao, also filled with red bean or taro, but since I wanted just a little something, a bun it was, as they came in orders of 12.

My bun came in its own box, clearly marked that it was taro.
Taro Bun.
The bun was nice and warm, and the box did a decent job of keeping it warm, while allowing steam to escape and not make it soggy.

But one bite and I was instantly reminded of the savory bun I had before from Din Tai Fung.  The dough just doesn't do it for me, it is very plain, no sweetness.  Just, not for me.

The taro filling however was great.  Mashed taro, generous amount, and, clearly real taro.  I did like the taro quite a bit.

Next time, taro XLB it is!


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