HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >

Discussion

Din Tai Fung -is it that bad??

I wanted to take my visiting mother to eat chinese dumplings for dinner tonight. she's visiting from arizona and she only lives there part time but she truly misses asian food (she lives in manhattan the rest of the year).

so i did some searching and thought maybe din tai fung? i did a search on this board and it doesn't get very good reviews. mostly overrated or bad service. is it worth it or is there another place people recommend? what dumplings are good and what's not worth ordering? thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. It IS worth going. Your mom won't find another Din Tai Fung in AZ or NY. I like their vegetable/meat dumplings, xiao long bao, chicken soup, fried rice. The trick is to eat the steamed items as soon as they are placed on your table as the skins are very delicate and they dry out fast.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fdb

      It is worth going to! Here are a couple of threads with some alternatives. We just tried Mei Long Village http://www.chowhound.com/topics/434583 It was delicious but it did not have the atmosphere of Din Tai Fung. I will continue trying the recommendations in the next thread but I will still continue to patronize DTF.http://www.chowhound.com/topics/359048

    2. I am also a big fan of DTF. I think they have one of the best juicy pork dumpling (prefer the thin skin). Also like the appetizer (only 1 kind), veg & juicy pork with crab dumplings, their string beans, and chow mein. We arrive at 10 am at the NEW location which is only next door to get in the first seating. They have the cleanest restrooms you will ever find in a Chinese restaurant, which is an issue for me. There are some items I don't care for and the shrimp shu mai is over priced ($9?) IMO, but I still enjoy going there with my group of friends and we have never been disappointed. We also enjoy the shops nearby. Also like Dumpling 10053 on Valley very much. No juicy dumplings here but veg, shrimp and 3 flavor dumplings are outstanding. Veg with meat sauce and spicy beef soup noodle also on my regular orders. Did not enjoy any appetizers here. They open at 11:30 am but they will allow you to come in early. Prices cheaper here. Restroom acceptable but you need to drive to other locations for shopping.

      Dumpling 10053
      10053 Valley Blvd, Temple City, CA 91731 - (626) 350-0188
      (small parking lot, most spaces are not was wide as standard)

      1. On an absolute scale Din Tai Fung is very, very good. The negative comment relates to whether it's so good as to endure the long wait (perhaps lessened with the opening of the new annex), whether it's superior to certain other excellent restaurants serving similar fare, and the fact that the Arcadia branch is not as good as the original branch in Taiwan.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chandavkl

          Regarding the original branch in Taiwan, I found the chicken soup there to be out of this world.... leagues of richness beyond what passes for chicken soup here. However as for the dumplings, they pretty much tasted the same... and that goes for the branches we ate at in Shanghai and Beijing as well.

          Mr Taster

        2. i think when it comes to negative reviews of din tai fung you're talking to a small group of people that like to FREAK OUT about dumplings. personally, i consider myself among the diseased and i go to din tai fung all the time. mei long village's versions are not anywhere close imo but if you're taking your visiting mother, there's no choice. din tai fung it is. don't forget about the bean dumplings for dessert. mmm....

          4 Replies
          1. re: logan

            Agreed.

            I have eaten at all the xlb places people mention and Din Tai Fung is my personal favorite. You can avoid the long waits by going at off hours. I've had some success in late afternoon but I don't go often enough to give a definitive answer on that one.

            1. re: choctastic

              Since they've opened the second location, I've found the wait to be shorter. Last time they told us 20 mins and seated us in less than 10. I was pleasantly surprised.

              1. re: bsquared2

                Where is the second location? I only know of the one on Baldwin.

                1. re: badmeow

                  As per prior threads, right next door.

          2. It's not that it's bad, it isn't. It's good. It's certainly in the top 10 in town, which means that it's probably in the top 10 in the U.S. for XLB. I especially like the green beans and "appetizer."

            But, there are better. J&J and Mei Long Village at 301 W. Valley (just west of Del Mar) are much tastier and there usually isn't the same wait in line.

            1 Reply
            1. re: estone888

              I so agree about the green beans..... they're always good, but occasionally they transcend that mark to fantastic. Ultra crispy but never overcooked, with seared garlic and some kind of lovely, whisper thin buttery sauce.

              Mr Taster

            2. Forget the naysayers, DTF's dumplings are amazing and I'd go there every weekend if I could manage it. The wait is definitely a pain, but just go there KNOWING that you will wait an hour and you'll be fine. There is enough other stuff in that strip mall to pass the time with.

              1. You should take everything on this board with a grain of salt. There are plenty of people who like to hate on things just because it's popular. People love to say that the popular place sucks relative to their secret, hole-in-the-wall local joint just to make it seem like they're "in the know."

                1. Personally, I think one should go just because they're a good bellwether on all other XLB joints: you can use it as a barometer to gauge other renditions at other restaurants. I think the only downside to the experience is the wait, and while I haven't gone to the new location yet, reports indicate that the wait time is no longer as bad as it's been in the past.

                  1. Their XLB is very good. I also really like their fried rice cake, I find them to be among a handful who makes it not greasy, but still tastes good. As for the rest of the food, they are so-so to me.

                    1. jeez
                      they're fine.
                      are they the best? there will be debate here based on taste etc (are they geared towards taiwanese tastes vs cantonese vs zhejiang). Your mother will have a fine time if she doesn't mind the wait. The track and arboretum are both nearby if you want to do something and come back ( or leave someone from your party while you drive around or whatnot).

                      E Waldo Ward is nearby in Sierra madre and they have some of the best jams and preserves around.

                      1. thanks everyone for their input. as andytseng mentioned that i have to take people's opinions on this board with a grain of salt.

                        anyway, we ended up not going to din tai fung. mom was feeling a bit sick and the rain didn't help so we opted to stay in and eat at her hotel, the Sheraton in Pasadena. now, that's one restaurant i wholeheartedly DO NOT recommend. we're sure any mediocre meal at din tai fung would be considered out of this world compared to the meal at chez sheraton. we will be going to din tai fung when she comes back next month.

                        1. No. It's not bad. It's great.

                          Anyone that tells you different is saying it so that you don't go and make the line longer for them. (HAHAHA! That's a joke people!)

                          Here's some pics and my review:

                          http://elmomonster.blogspot.com/2007/...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: elmomonster

                            People tend to be very hyperbolic in their criticisms of Din Tai Fung. Mainly because it's probably the most popular dumpling house in LA. There may be better dumplings in LA, but regardless, I really can't understand the criticisms over the dumplings. They are out of this world.

                          2. I definitely think it's worth a visit. I went with a group of friends last wk to the new location. It's brand spanking new! Loved it. My favorite are their crab dumplings. Their shrimp chow mein is also very good. It is pricer compared to the smaller dumpling places but it's because it's a lot more famous. You pay for the cleanliness and the better service in comparison to smaller mom and pops shops. My friends absolutely love their red bean steam buns. They horded them the whole whole night and didn't want to share any of them. She tells me they frequently run out so she always orders 6 for herself. I'm not a big fan of red bean but according to her they are like heaven.

                            1. They aren't horrible but to me the place is definitely overrated. I've been there twice and both times I wasn't impressed. My mom is from Taiwan and thinks this place ain't that special at all.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: alcoholic29

                                My wife is from Taiwan and I've been there several times myself. We've eaten a ton of Taiwanese xiao long bao (which is a ubiquitous night market snack) and I can say with authority that DTF's version is leagues beyond what is commonly found there. "Regular" Taiwanese xlb are unrefined, very thick-skinned, with very little soup inside. (I have not seen an eqivalent of these type of xlb here in LA)

                                Din Tai Fung's dumplings by comparison are gossamer thin, filled with a nice amount of richly flavored soup. Most xlb joints in Los Angeles follow this model, which is actually a variation on the "original" Shanghai version (original in quotes because other smaller cities lay claim to inventing them).

                                I mention all of this to emphasize that in Taiwan, DTF's dumpling *are* different than what is commonly available, though in LA this distinction is harder to make. I am a little surprised that Alcoholic29's Taiwanese mom finds it difficult to make this distinction, which is readily apparent to even a casual visitor to Taiwan.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  Being Taiwanese and having spent some time in Taipei, I've never heard DTF criticized for not having great xlb. The main criticism of DTF in Taipei mirrors criticism of DTF here in LA. The xlb are great, but they're pricey and there's always a huge line because it's a "must visit" for every single Japanese tourist. The price factor is even bigger in Taiwan because of the much lower general cost of dining there. Price aside, I've always heard DTF described as one of the best, if not the best, xlb places in Taiwan.

                                  I've eaten at the Arcadia DTF only once, so I'm not exactly qualified to compare the various xlb places in LA, but they didn't strike me as being that much worse than DTF in Taipei. Tates are subjective, but the over-the-top comments about DTF having bad xlb strike me as exaggeration.

                                  1. re: huaqiao

                                    Hi huagiao

                                    Yes its true that the price disparity is profound between DTF's Taiwan and LA branches... although they cost about the same, paying $8 USD for a tray of dumplings when you can get those thick skinned, street market style XLB for $1 USD at a hundred random street food vendors, I can see how people might have a psychological hurdle to get over paying so much for something with the same name. To be fair though, they really are not the same creature, as I've outlined above. (Also, keep in mind that in Taiwan there is no extra tax and gratuity to pay.... what you see is what you pay) As an interesting side note, the branches in Shanghai and Beijing had wildly variant prices, with the Beijing branch the cheapest at about $4 per tray.

                                    The point is different here in LA where you can get similar style XLB (thin skinned, lots of soup) at any number of restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley (Mei Long Village, J&J, Dragon Mark, Giang Nan, Green Village/City/Country/whatever they're called now). In Taiwan, the DTF stlye XLB are much harder to come by, and therefore are more of a special occasion thing that people pay a premium for. In LA, they're a little expensive, but not off-the-hook expensive like they are when compared with comparable dumpling choices in Taiwan.

                                    The best part in topping out that evening of XLB bliss is to get a nice hour-long foot and shoulder massage for $15 (that's about what we paid in Taiwan for a rudimentary non-spa massage)

                                    I love the San Gabriel Valley!

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      i dunno about calling the xlb at mei long thin skinned. since i am a fan of the thicker skinned xlb, i head to mei long over dtf.

                                      1. re: wilafur

                                        They skins at MLV are very thin skinned in comparison to the doughy street vendor type of XLB in Taiwan... that's the point I was making.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          I just tried MLV (which I liked) but did not detect a discernible difference in thickness in the skins from DTF. Ok, maybe discernable but certainly not enough to make an issue of. I will still go back to DTF because I know exactly what I like on the menu and I will continue to try others and go back to MLV to try things I haven't had. Their soups, veggies and main dishes look wonderful but for 2 people it was enough to have 2 kinds of soup dumplings, pot stickers and something else that I cannot recall right now.

                                          1. re: Fru

                                            The question shouldn't be whether the skins at DTF are thinner (they clearly are); rather, the question is whether pristinely thin skins are de rigueur for XLB.

                                            The answer? Clearly not.

                                            The way the XLB are made at DTF borders on shāomài territory -- you know, the stuff you find at dim sum and which are Cantonese in creation and origin.

                                            XLB should be made with skins that are more substantial, and which have that certain al dente bite to them (or what Taiwanese folks would affectionaly term "Q Q"). This is the quality that XLB at DTF lack.

                                            It's like going to Pizza Hut and saying that you are having "NY-style pizza". Regardless of whether you like Pizza Hut pizza, what you are eating is clearly not NY-style pie.

                                            Flame away ... before this post gets deleted (like the others).

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              "Flame away ... before this post gets deleted (like the others)."
                                              I don't know what that means, not that you are directing it at me. I understand what you are saying about the thickness and texture of the skin but my experiences so far are that I don't detect a big difference in the thickness but I will pay more attention with each new experience in the future.

                                              1. re: Fru

                                                wait, aren't you guys the people that logan warned me about a few posts above? i'm still going to both din tai fung and the mei long place just to see what all the chowhound fuss is about. mom is on too.

                                                1. re: trolley

                                                  Yes, you should go to both, and by all means report your findings. Don't listen to the bile from the anti-DTF people.

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                I read your other posts on this thread and I don't understand why they were pulled. Differing opinions should be heard. That being said, I like xlb from DTF... but I see what you say about them not being authentic as in how they are supposed to be made.....

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Yeah but so what if pristinely thin skins are not de rigueur for XLB. If they're good that way, I'll still eat them even if, as you say, they border on shaomai territory (though I don't think so).

                                                  The Pizza Hut analogy makes no sense at all.

                                              3. re: Mr Taster

                                                i agree, the stuff from street vendors in taiwan is very thick compared to MLV and DTF....almost like a steamed bun thickness...ok, not really but you get my drift.

                                                however, i still find the wrapping on DTF's xlb to be thicker than that of MLV. i go to MLV for the xlb and DTF for their chao nian gao.

                                                as many other posters have stated, it is all a matter of personal preference. i grew up eating larger thicker skinned xlb's and thus the ones at MLV remind me of my childhood.

                                    2. There's a weird dynamic at Chowhound - someone is always going to hate any place, no matter how good it is - it's tough to find a restaurant anywhere that someone doesn't trash. It makes it tough for me when trying to find a restaurant in a city I don't know, but parsing through the threads about hometown retaurants that I know from personal experience are wonderful - like DTF - has helped me understand the dynamic. Go (early - how hard is that?) - you won't regret it.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Selter Head

                                        No restaurant is critic proof. As someone stated, the hyperboles make it easy to identify who you can trust and which posters' tastes most closely aligns with yours.

                                        To comment on ipsidixit's statement regarding the DTF wrapper. DTF wrappers clearly have that al dente/reslilient/"QQ" nature to them. When you pick them up, they don't break. This indicates a certain carefully calculated level of gluten within the dough. The fact that DTF wrappers do indeed have this al dente/chewy nature is supported by the popularity of DTF in Taiwan, the popularity of DTF Arcadia amongst Taiwanese patrons, and also by the numerous other dialects (including Shanghainese) that you hear in the constantly packed Arcadia outpost.

                                        It comes down to preference in style. DTF XLB have a balance between the wrapper and filling. They can be eaten in 1 bite. There is a certain clean austerity and restraint that makes the dumplings appealing. MLV XLB places much more emphasis on the filling with a larger and more aggressively flavored filling. These larger dumplings usually require 2 bites. The wrapper is slightly thicker but doesn't necessarily have that same quality chew that DTF has.

                                        A sushi analogy would be how you prefer your nigiri. Do you like smaller pieces of nigiri with a balance between fish and rice or do you prefer a larger slab of fish, maybe with some sauce over it, and really don't care much about the rice? Your preference and weight given towards certain aspects of each is going to influence what you call "the best" or "overrated".

                                        The "worth the wait" argument is another issue all together and more philosophical actually.

                                        Funny how these DTF threads haven't changed much since 2002:

                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49711

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          Well said. Except I think that the MLV wrappers are more than "slightly" thicker than the DTF ones.

                                          For me, DTF is the place to go for xlb. The other places are just places to try out for comparison purposes. And then I head back to DTF.

                                          1. re: slacker

                                            Just wanted to clarify that while I defend DTF in the face of hyperbolic criticism, I also don't think they're the end all of XLB. There are some other really good versions out there.

                                            I think rumors of MLV having superior XLB are greatly exaggerated. The nian gao at MLV is just bad. Soft, not chewy.

                                            However, I do agree that the crab XLB at J&J are delicious and much better than DTF's crab version. I thought the non-crab version at J&J was nothing remarkable. The other cooked items at J&J are also very good and a bargain. The braised carp with scallions was very good.

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              I didn't find anything remarkable about J&J at all.

                                              1. re: slacker

                                                What did you have? Again, the braised carp was good as was the braised duck. I think the fish head soup in clay pot could have been better if we ordered it spicy. The fried spareribs were tasty. Not much skill required for that though. Something like 7 dishes for $56. That's pretty remarkable.

                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                  Had lunch there: xlb and some sort of soup noodles which I can't remember bc it did nothing for me. Also looked around at the dishes others were ordering, and obviously perused the menu. Heavy and bland and bland looking food. Not really my thing.

                                      2. this world would suck if haters did not exist...cause' everybody is one at one point or another, and we would all be extinct, here at chowhound, we all are food haters, but just because one person doesn't approve of a locations way of preparing a dish, it doesn't mean it's not good, or as i like to say, delicious, we all have different palates, and really guys, when you put authenticity and deliciousness on a scale, which is the bigger reason why we eat aaall the food we eat?

                                        i have the great fortune of having my girlfriend, who introduced me to DTF, and we love the XLBs there, the thickness, or thinness in this case of the wrapper is just right, slightly moist at the bottom and borderline dry at the top, the soup inside of them is the right amount with plenty of flavor, the texture and size of the filling is enough to taste, but not so much that it overpowers the other two, that, with the soy sauce, vinegar, julienne ginger and some chili, sweet jesus!

                                        the service can be a little weird at times, but we don't go there for the service, we go there for the delicious factor, their sesame buns are a very good cap to the meal too

                                        eating is great!

                                        1. this is way out of control.

                                          DTF is what it is again.
                                          It is not standard. Taster - in Shanghai, how did DTF rate? Did you have xlb in shaoxing, or hangzhou or ningbo? btw, at meilong village, i'd say skip the potstickers. you'll get better guotie'r at the northeastern places, even at mandarin deli. If you've got the space, have some niangao (new years rice cake) dishes or the shanghai style noodles in soup.
                                          The best guotie potstickers I had in town were at deerfield before they changed, at the old quanjude and at shenyang (is it still around?) - they used a thin slurry with the dumplings so that it would form a thin crackly skin that would unite the stickers - sticking to the wok, and then you'd break it up at the table.

                                          DEEE-lish.

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: trolley

                                              Yes, although Deerfield Garden is no more.

                                          1. As a self-professed DTF lover (see my post above), I just tried MLV today and absolutely loved it too. Both are fantastic.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: QualityMart

                                              I hate them so much I went there for lunch to punish myself. I am a dumpling masochist. When you are in a 'dumpling mood' they really hit the spot. BTW, someone said the service was bad, but I've found the service to be OK. Not the most attentive, but they brought the dumplings over while they were hot.

                                              1. re: bsquared2

                                                Why go to Mei Long Village for dumplings? Mei Long Village is a Shanghainese restaurant. Dumplings are a Beijing / Northern China specialty.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Oh stop it. You know very well he's talking about XLB!

                                                  Mr Taster

                                            2. wow, another DTF post to get the masses riled up. i figure those ppl who choose to stand in the heat for 1 hour for a seat must really love DTF's XLB. me, i don't get it. DTF's XLB are mediocre at best. my family's from shanghai and our business is half in shanghai. DTF in shanghai is full of japanese and foreign businessmen, not a local around. but it's all in the tastebuds. some people love the stuff. to each his/her own.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: lakeshow318

                                                sounds like the japanese and foreign businessmen, or businesswomen don't have good taste in food, i'm making a mental note to keep an eye out for such next time i'm dinning out, good looking out

                                                1. re: lakeshow318

                                                  If you can make such strong criticism against DTF or simply don't like the lines, just avoid peak times. Can you recommend somewhere better than DTF in the LA area? Personally I think its the best for xlb...the best places I've had it are in Shanghai and Taiwan, but in the states, this places ranks among my top choices. I think of myself as an avid xlb eater and understand I will never find anything comparable to anything in China/Taiwan, etc. here in the states. The best XLB I've had were in SF in the Hu Jiang in the old building near the Ferry building, it's now closed, but nothing has come close since...except DTF.

                                                2. Into the fray.....

                                                  Went last night. At 6:30 there was no wait for two but we got there just before the rush--ate at the first location. Had the soup-dumplings, sticky-rice dumplings, chicken soup and red bean dumplings. I went with my friend who is Chinese and speaks Mandarin so our experience my be slightly different than those without that benefit but the service was good and our experience was excellent. The xlb was clearly the highlight but all dishes were really exceptional.

                                                  My addition to this thread comes from an intersting point (I think) she made last night. She felt that they use less MSG than your average dumpling place, here or in Aisa for that matter, and that has something to do with their following.

                                                  Mind you, I have no idea what I am talking about other than the fact that I love food, know what MSG is, know generally how it is used in cooking and even have some products in my pantry with MSG. I mentioned that the chicken soup was really basic (not bad) and clean and she noted that I was commenting on the lack of MSG.

                                                  I'm not sure if I was or not. Could this be part of some peoples, take or leave it, approach? I don't even know for sure if they use it or not. My perception was that their flavors were very subtle, in a good way. But is this part of the issue?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ellaystingray

                                                    Having not been since the second location opened 2 moms and 3 young boys went Thursday to the original for lunch. I thought they didn't open until 11:30 so we met then to find out that they open at 11:00 but there was still no wait and we got seated immediately. My compulsive nature kicked in and the waitress who was very sweet convinced us to pare down so we removed the siew mai(sp?). Anyway whether it is the best or not, (I do like Mei Long Village a lot) we scarfed up every juicy dumpling, fried pork chop, Shanghai rice cake (my favorite), shrimp fried rice (a new and addicting addition for me) and a noodle soup that I never tried because I was so content with what I already knew would satisfy my craving. Oh yes, the broccoli along with those toasty pieces of garlic!!! I just wish the tea was a little better...And then it was off to the bakery across the parking lot for something just out of the oven. Mmm!

                                                  2. It's delish! We go there every two weeks or so, yummy!!!!

                                                    1. Last month I went to DTF one weekend and then to Canaan the next. I do agree with most that the wrap is nice and thin at DTF, but I love the flavors of the XLB at Canaan so much better. DTF tastes rather bland in comparison. Now, I don't know if it is b/c of MSG or what, but since Canaan is so much closer to me, there is no need to go to DTF, too far out of the way. I also had several other dishes. The chicken soup, very nice, simple broth, the sticky rice dumpling-very bland, spinach-fresh and tasty, but eat while hot, doesn't taste as good when cooled off, fish dumplings-ok, rice cake-ok and more that I can't recall. Overall, not as memorable as many suggest, the XLBs that is.

                                                      1. Sweet Jesus !!!!!! I find some of the positive reviews to be absolutely ridiculous. I was there last evening, my second foray into this restaraunt. The only good thing about this restaraunt was the lack of long lines and plenty of seating. Now I know why. The gig is up. This place is extremely overrated and overpriced. The crab/pork dumplings were definitely subpar. They were actually crunchy and dry on the edges without any taste of crab. The chicken soup that everyone seems to be all ga ga over was poor and unsatisfying. I would take issue with anyone who thought this Arcadia restaraunt was worth the price and the taste. DON'T GO.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: spongiform

                                                          I second your experience. It looks like to savor the true essence of DTF now, you have to go to Taiwan. Arcadia DTF has gone down the tube, I was just there last week and have been there before. Definitely way overrated and ridicously overpriced.. A lot of other places are better and cheaper. GO SOMEWHERE ELSE, YOU WON'T MISS A THING.