Author: Drew Jaffe
It is not everyday that a person can dine at a restaurant considered by the New York Times to be one of the top ten in the world. However, after the opening of Din Tai Fung at Glendale’s Americana, world-class dining has become much more accessible. With its signature dumplings, Din Tai Fung – sometimes abbreviated as DTF – offers a unique experience unparalleled by any other Chinese restaurant in the area.
The Americana location is one of four Din Tai Fung’s in North America. The rarity of these restaurants make them quite popular and two-hour waits are standard. If prospective eaters can weather the wait, however, they will be treated to the food experience of a lifetime.
Although they offer a variety of dishes, DTF’s trademark is its dumplings: small, steamed buns containing meat and soup. Once diners decide on their choice of dumplings, expert chefs build their order from scratch. One article in L.A. Magazine estimates that a group of six chefs can make upwards of five dumplings per minute. To get a glimpse of this speedy process, customers can take a trip to the restaurant’s viewing window.
The intricacy and care taken to create these dumplings is remarkable because the creation of these delicacies is as much a science as it is an art. Chefs carefully mold rolls of dough – exactly five grams – into the perfect shape and thickness before adding 16 grams of filling. Once all the ingredients have been added, the chefs close the dumplings by pinching the dough together in exactly 18 folds. The final product should way precisely 21 grams.
The dumplings arrive at the table in a hot pan, fresh from the steamer. After opening the lid, the customer will find ten perfectly-proportioned dumplings intended to satisfy their taste buds. Owners of the restaurant claim that there is a special technique to eating these delicious specimens. Diners must carefully place the dumpling on their soup spoon and then, using chopsticks, tenderly pry open the dough to let the hot soup seep out. It is sad watching a work of art deflate on the spoon, but necessary in order to get the most out of a Din Tai Fung experience.
Once the soup has spilled out, diners are encouraged to drink it. The savory broth serves as a nice appetizer before the main feast. When all that is left is a meat-filled cocoon of dough, diners can then place a flair of ginger on top and slide the entire dumpling into their mouth. The slightly sweet and chewy dough perfectly compliments the savory filling of meat and vegetables that breaks apart effortlessly with each chew. In an instant, the dumpling is gone, leaving the diner craving more.
Of course, the alternative to these carefully planned steps is to simply eat the entire dumpling whole, soup and all. This option has its own perks, as the dumpling bursts in the mouth and provides the eater with an explosion of flavor. Both routes are highly recommended.
DTF offers other dishes as well. Pork buns, fried noodles, soups and rice are just a few of the other options available to a diner, and they are nearly as good as the signature dumplings. A word to the wise: the dishes are small but pricey and racking up a $30 or $40 bill is not uncommon for a party of two, so diners must be wary of how many dishes they buy.
DTF is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
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