Din Tai Fung, the internationally renowned dumpling chain, held their grand opening of their latest location in the Westfield Century City earlier this week. This opening had been highly anticipated, and by noon the restaurant was full, with crowds eagerly waiting outside.
This Taiwanese chain has a come a long way since their more modest beginnings in the U.S., with a drab restaurant in a mini mall in Arcadia. They’ve since expanded with several locations, giving their restaurants a stylishly sleek decor. The Century City location is no exception, with a very long dining room to accommodate dumpling starved diners.
If you have to wait for a table (which is more than likely), they will take your cell phone number and text you when your table is ready, allowing you the freedom to explore the mall. Whereas some of the locations have the “operating” room where the chefs assemble the dumplings in the front, this one is located away from the waiting area so you can’t just bide the time watching them at work.
The menu features appetizers, noodles, fried rice, buns, vegetables and, of course, dumplings. Somehow I had never tried their steamed buns before, so I decided to get a pork bun.
It was not filled with BBQ pork, but rather the same pork filling that goes inside of the soup dumpling. The pork bun was OK, a bit heavy on the dough. I prefer steamed BBQ pork buns filled with sweet char siu or pork buns pan fried on the bottom like a sheng jian bao. Since there were two of us, they did offer to cut the bun in half, which I thought was a nice touch.
The fried noodles are pretty standard, a little on the greasy side. The noodles are thicker and flatter, which makes it slightly more interesting than your usual chow mein.
We ordered two sets of dumplings. The steamed chicken dumplings were beautifully pleated. I normally prefer pork dumplings, but as far as chicken dumpling go, it was surprisingly good.
Din Tai Fung’s signature dish the xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings) prove why Din Tai Fung has become so famous, with the New York Times naming it as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world. They take the basic soup dumpling and elevate it to something of elegance and beauty. The dumplings, which are each pleated 18 times, have a very delicate skin, requiring a proper balance of filling so that the dumplings don’t break open.
These dumplings are quite refined and because of their delicate quality, don’t hold that much soup. They are so light that the two of us managed to finish the pork xiao long bao, the chicken dumplings, chow mein and pork bun and still have room for dessert.
Service was friendly, though a little glitchy as they attempted to seat another party where we were already sitting and we were brought some dishes that we didn’t order. At this time, they were not providing parking validation, but it’s a small price to pay since the wait here doesn’t seem quite as intimidating as other locations. It will be interesting to see how the Century City location fares, given that there isn’t a large Asian population nearby (with the exception of UCLA students) and the rather stiff restaurant competition at the mall. Personally I’m thrilled to have Din Tai Fung in my neighborhood, sparing me the pain and agony of driving across town to enjoy some of the world’s best xiao long bao.
Location – 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90067. Additional locations throughout California and Washington, as well as internationally.
Website – http://dintaifungusa.com
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Pesco-Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes