Monday, January 20, 2020

My Top 5 Favorite Restaurants: Din Tai Fung - Costa Mesa

To start the new year and a new chapter of Monster Munching, I am counting down my top five favorite restaurants in the next few posts. And when I say "favorite", I mean it. Over the last year, I ate at these restaurants more than I can count. In fact, not only are they in my regular rotation, I visited all five again within the last two weeks of 2019. The next on the alphabetical list:

Din Tai Fung

When South Coast Plaza's management enticed Din Tai Fung to open at the mall, they knew it would attract its huge fan-base, some of whom belong to a growing class of affluent Chinese spenders (most of whom live in Costa Mesa-adjacent Irvine). In the new Riviera, the rich don't eat caviar; they eat dumplings — these dumplings. And what's a better waiting area for those Din Tai Fung-loving whales than a mall with thousand-dollar purses and Jimmy Choo shoes for sale.

Din Tai Fung isn't even an expensive restaurant by South Coast Plaza standards. But in the Asian world, Din Tai Fung has as sterling a reputation as Louis Vuitton.

The good news is the dumplings are just as good here as they are at the Arcadia branch — the skin thinner, more delicate and elastic than those at Mei Long Village and Mama Lu's, two of the most venerable Monterey Park xiaolongbao purveyors. And because Din Tai Fung is known for its consistency as much as its lines, the oil-blanched green beans are still crisp-tender and the pickled cucumbers garlicky and brisk. The pork chop fried rice is particularly perfect, a treatise on the clean, simple flavors that are hallmarks of Taiwanese cooking.

If you don't have kids in tow, the bar is where you want to sit. With a separate line that bypasses the hours-long wait, it’s where you’ll usually find me. Now that they’ve expanded the bar area to double the size it used to be, sometimes there's no wait at all. And to me that's important because instant gratification is just as good a condiment to the dumplings as the black vinegar and ginger.

Din Tai Fung
3333 Bristol St. Ste. 2071
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 549-3388


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