- Torrance, CA -
Din Tai Fung
Okay, so full disclosure here: I have always, always, ALWAYS wanted to try authentic East Asian food like buns and dumplings, but I never thought I could because most authentic dishes that I am familiar with feature pork. Even before I went vegan, I never ate pork because I only ate halal foods. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and my dreams kind of came true! Now, before I go into the full on review, I know this restaurant might not be categorized as an authentic restaurant for some, because it’s a chain with locations around the world, but I still think that it’s amazing and definitely worth trying! The restaurant I’m talking about? Din Tai Fung! Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese restaurant that was originally founded as a cooking oil retail business in 1958, and was reborn as a steamed dumpling and noodle restaurant in 1972.
Din Tai Fung focused on achieving steady improvement in quality and service. The restaurant was soon winning rave reviews from all over the world. Laudatory articles in food magazines and newspapers contributed to Din Tai Fung’s growth. In an article published on January 17, 1993, the New York Times rated Din Tai Fung as one of the top ten gourmet restaurants in the world (Din Tai Fung was the only Chinese or Taiwanese restaurant to receive this accolade). Further international recognition came in 2010, when Din Tai Fung’s Hong Kong Branch was awarded one Michelin Star; a first for a restaurant from Taiwan. The sense of achievement was shared by Din Tai Fung’s main branch in Taiwan and by Din Tai Fung’s other branches around the world. Today, Din Tai Fung has branches in Japan, the United States, South Korea, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, and Thailand. Din Tai Fung is now giving people throughout the world the opportunity to experience a classic “taste of Taiwan.”
Unfortunately for me (and Matias) - we had only heard of Din Tai Fung recently thanks to a friend who recommended it to us. So, we decided to go to the Torrance location in the Del Amo mall just before a movie night and we are so glad we did! When Matias suggested we try it out, I was pretty skeptical. Of course I thought I couldn’t enjoy the food they had to offer; but after scanning their menu online, I was shocked! Din Tai Fung features a predominantly omnivorous menu, but with a significant number of vegan options. And vegetarian as well! The menu is broken up by appetizers, soup dumplings, soups, noodle soups, steamed dumplings, greens, fried rice, noodles and wontons, buns, fried noodles and rice cakes, desserts, and drinks! If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! Din Tai Fung has plenty of options for everybody and let me just say that the food is amazing. And all of the dumplings and buns you see are made by hand! One of the coolest parts about the entire restaurant is the fact that you can actually watch the chefs through a transparent window as they prepare the buns.
After being mesmerized from the hand-made dumplings, we were lucky to be seated fairly quickly. Usually, the restaurant - at least in this location has a wait time of about twenty minutes or so. But we walked right on in, and immediately were drawn to the open seating and modern design. The restaurant was bustling with people enjoying their food and having a good time over some delicious dumplings. The staff were all incredibly nice and helpful especially when it came to helping me find dishes that I could eat! Of course as eager as I was to try everything I could, I ended up ordering more than one item off the menu; which by the way is totally normal!
Most of the dumplings are served family style in batches of five or ten, so it makes it really easy to order a few things you want to try and share! The menu is actually fairly similar to what you would find at a sushi restaurant. You just check boxes off and hand it over to the waiter helping you. I started off with a hot jasmine tea - which was so relaxing to be honest. I generally don’t order hot drinks with dinner, but the tea complemented everything so nicely. After the tea, I had the soy noodle salad and wood ear mushrooms in vinegar. Both sound very simple, but they were so good. The dishes were savory, refreshing, and exactly what I wanted to have in an appetizer. Shortly the appetizers came out, the vegetable and mushroom dumplings and bun that I ordered came out hot and steaming in woven baskets. They were phenomenal. And with the soy vinegar dipping sauce...yes please! And as if it couldn’t get any better, I ended the night with a batch of sweet taro Xiao Long Bao. SO, GOOD. Words won’t do it justice. Check out a Din Tai Fung near you! I can’t wait to go back!!