Casual dining

Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza!

For years, fans of the famed restaurant, Din Tai Fung had to drive over an hour to Arcadia to get a taste of their “Juicy Pork Dumplings” or Xiao Long Bao (XLB) as they are officially called. Finally on August 14, 2014, Orange County fans rejoiced, when the doors of the South Coast Plaza location was officially opened.

Located on the 1st level near Sears is this famous soup dumpling and noodle house.  The set up is similar to the Arcadia branch, where you can see the workers churn out dumplings after dumplings by hand.

Unlike the Arcadia branch, the South Coast branch has a full bar, outside dining, and the staff speaks better English than the Arcadia branch (as the clientele is not as Asian oriented).  I came here on the opening day, left a bit underwhelmed. Food was just so-so, and we chalked it up as a new restaurant glitch, hoping that it would get better.

Bar area, with full menu served  

We have been back since the grand opening, and pretty much what we always get:

– XLB Juicy Pork Dumplings
– a Fried Rice dish
– a Fried Noodles dish
– the Sauteed Green Beans
– and the Red Bean dumplings for dessert

The signature XLB dumplings is always a favorite, and has never disappointed. Occasionally this location does not serve the dumplings as piping hot as it should be, but it still tastes great. Same applies to the green beans and the red dumplings… consistently good.

 

Ginger for the dumplings

In the grand opening, we found the rice and noodles dishes to be sub par, as they lacked color, ingredients or flavor. We forgave them as we thought they ran out of ingredients on opening day.

Fast forward to this visit, the shrimp fried rice was more flavorful, and colorful, but the fried noodles was still underwhelming.   I don’t know why the noodles here are not as good as Arcadia’s.  Not enough soy? Different soy? It just didn’t have that same satisfaction.  My friends say I am imagining it, and that the food at both locations are exactly the same (I still beg to differ).

Our latest visit, August 2015

Dining here is not cheap, and portions are not excessive.  Our bill for 2 people came to a pricey $50 before tax and tip, with minimal leftovers. However, I’ve yet to try a place that excels in the XLB Dumplings better than Din Tai Fung.  Until someone finds a way to make these “Pillows of Heaven” better, I’ll pay the extra money for my favorite dumplings, and maybe even drive the hour back to Arcadia to get perfection.

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