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May 13, 2007 07:47 PM

Din Tai Fung -- What has been your experience?

Yes, Virginia, Din Tai Fung is a chain, with 25 branches in 8 countries. Besides, it comes up on multiple boards, so I don't know where else to post this.

Where have you been to a Din Tai Fung and was the xiaolong bao worth the shouting? What else was good? Have you noticed variations in quality between branches? (There have been some reports of the Arcadia and Singapore locations not being up to the standards of the Taipei branches.) How do they compare with other xiaolong bao venues in the same localities? Were they greatly overpriced for their area?

I've only been to the Shanghai (Xintiandi) branch of DTF, and the XLB there were excellent; of course, one would expect DTF to put their best foot forward on XLB's home turf. They also were grossly overpriced for Shanghai, and at least one local xiaolong bao purveyor (Jia Jia Tang Bao) trumps the XLB at Din Tai Fung, IMHO, at a fraction of the price.

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  1. My parents actually prefer the XLB and the shrimp/pork dumplings at the Arcadia branch to the Taiwan branch. I've found the Arcadia branch to be very good and consistent over the past few 3-4 years.

    1. The Taipei location is good for XLB, better than the Arcadia (CA, USA) location.

      Only thing worth getting at the Arcadia DTF is the chicken soup. Everything else is subpar.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Subpar compared to the Taipei branch or subpar to XLB in LA in general? The latter may be a bit of an exaggeration since few people can think of 1, maybe 2 places that they feel is better than DTF Arcadia.

        Compared to XLB in NYC, DTF Arcadia is clearly better IMHO. There are a couple of places in SF that I like as much as DTF Arcadia but certainly not better.

        I agree with below that the pork only XLB is much better than the crab+pork XLB. In fact, I would even agree with you that the crab+pork XLB at DTF Arcadia is only average.

        The pork XLB, the shrimp/pork dumplings, the fish dumplings, and the chicken soup are all well done and worth waiting in that insane line for.

        1. re: Porthos

          Subpar in comparison to XLB in all of San Gabriel Valley.

          No exaggeration.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I grew up eating asian food in SGV and surrounding environs and I have not had many superior to DTF.

            I've heard arguments for Mei Long and very few others but I'd be interested to hear which other restaurants you feel serve superior XLB.

            1. re: Porthos

              Mei Long Village, J&J, Dragon Mark, Giang-Nan and Ho Ho Kitchen all do XLB better than DTF.

              See my prior post:

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Well it's as you said in that post. It all depends on what you consider good XLB. I give higher marks for thinner skin that maintains its shape and integrity when picked up. As for the filling, there's a certain balance and subtlety that I like at DTF.

                If you like J&J more because the skin is thicker and the filling is stronger tasting, that's completely respectable but more reflective of your preference for XLB. Personally, I don't like a thicker skin in my XLB.

                I'm not sure which style is closer to the "original" Shanghainese version.

                1. re: Porthos

                  While the XLB at DTF is excellent and true to the spirit of Shanghainese style, you have to consider the price/quality ratio. Do you think DTF is worth twice or 3X the amount from top purveyors of XLB on the West Coast? I have not returned to DTF in Arcadia since after being invited there for the first time. I have had better tasting XLB elsewhere in Taiwan/Shanghai at fraction of what DTF was charging. Kudos to DTF for its successful marketing in upscaling a peasant food.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          thats my general concensus as well. however, their shanghai rice cakes (nian gao) are quite good. other than that......DTF is OVERRATED.

        3. I've only been to the DTF in Arcadia, and only once. I like the XLB better at Mei Long Village, and prefer the pork-only version to the crab+pork version there. I used to like the XLB (crab+pork) best at New Green Bo in NY but on our last visit to NY (October 2006) the wrappers were mushy and the filling was ground more finely than in our past (mutiple) visits and the amount of soup inside and its richness seemed diminished. These are the only 3 places I've ever had XLB. We're thinking of going to Hong Kong for my *big* b-day in Nov. 2008. Are there any DTF's there?

          p.s. my picture is our XLB at New Green Bo last October.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Debbie W

            Unless more than one has popped up, the DTF Hong Kong location I went to in 2002 is located in Whampoa Gardens, Hung Hom, top (or near the top) floor of the gourmet building, across from Jusco Japanese dept store (and where the big ship is). No direct way of getting there unless you know the bus lines, or get a cab from either Yau Ma Tei or TST (ask to be taken to Wong Bo Fa Yuen).

          2. Well, like most Angelenos (actually I'm from OC), I make a pilgrimage to the Arcadia branch and am already so used to the waiting ritual that awaits that I know how much time I will have to do some banking at the Wells Fargo next door.

            I love DTF, but also Mei Long Village...both good, but different.

            Here are a few pictures and a video I took of DTF:

            1. I've got to believe there are differences between locations in different countries due to ingredients and preparation. When DTF opened in Arcadia the main issue was the health department wouldn't let them use bamboo steamers and they had to use stainless steel. Basic ingredients such as flour and meats are going to be different depending where they come from and maybe something as simple as the water for steaming and as an ingredient is going to make a difference. Geographically and genetically people's tastes are different.

              There is no one standard recipe or standard for XLB. Boils down to different strokes for different folks. I like the XLB at DTF-USA, Mei Long Village and J&J, doesn't mean I can't tell the difference, they're all good in their own way its all about personal taste. Like the poster above thinks the DTF chicken soup is the best thing to get and I thought it was the most marginal Chinese chicken soup I've ever had and wouldn't order it again.

              6 Replies
              1. re: monku

                You hit the nail in the head with geographical ingredients and methods of prep.

                Taiwanese chickens are superb for soup, particularly the free range variety called tu ji.
                Some of them/their white meat are as tough as rubber (like Arnold Scwarenegger with a beak and two legs) but yields way more flavor than our normal chickens stateside (unless you upgrade to free range organic chicken from a local farm or Whole Foods, but that's only a few notches of improvement). Hence DTF's chicken soup should in theory taste better than the one at Arcadia, at least that was how I remembered it.

                1. re: K K

                  Any freshly killed chicken is far superior than one that has been processed, frozen, thawed and cooked like most places serve.

                  1. re: K K

                    Chicken is also one component of the "soup" stock for XLB, along with pork and ham if done according to the long form:


                  2. re: monku

                    monku i completely agree with your post down to the opinion about their chicken soup

                    1. re: choctastic

                      So you're a DTF soup fan?

                      1. re: monku

                        I like the DTF dumplings but I like Mei Long and J&J too. I've only been to the Arcadia DTF. I taste the differences between the restaurants but I like them all anyway. J&J crab dumpling in particular is really good for on the road eating because they have a thicker skin and less soup and I like how they do the crab filling.

                        I'm not sure how DTF could screw up the chicken soup though. The actaul chicken chunks that are in the soup tasted pretty good to me, however, perhaps my tastebuds were shot from all the dumplings.