Din Tai Fung Dumpling House happens to be a dining destination that I usually take my non-Asian friends to introduce them to Chinese Dumplings. I found myself craving them after a Foodie Friend showed me plenty of food photos of his recent dining trip to their newest location in Glendale. Soon afterwards, I was at the newest location eager to eat.
Would you believe I got lost when I arrived? Yup, I literally got lost finding it inside the mall. Lucky for me, a Mall Security Guard was kind to escort me to the front door. Din Tai Fung Dumpling House is actually located next to the Norstroms entrance on Brand Avenue just before Colorado Street. He pointed out that the street address is correct, but a ploy to get you to walk through the shopping areas. Yes, a sneaky way to get you to shop.
Anyway, after stepping inside, it was no surprise to me to find that every single table in the restaurant was occupied. I was told that there was a wait list of about 8 people ahead of me, but that was no shock to me either as I had expected it too. What really shocked me was finding a Bar area. Boy, was it a lovely surprise! The hostess suggested that I bypass the wait list by sitting at the bar since I was dining alone. “Great idea,” I told her.
Out of curiosity, I asked to look at the Bar menu. It has a little bit of everything…Asian-inspired cocktail drinks, Asian Beers, Sake, and a decent selection of wines. I was so tempted to get an Asian-inspired cocktail drink, but passed in ordering one as it really was a little too early drink an alcoholic beverage.
Ouch! The prices at Din Tai Fung are still higher than the humble, mom-and-pop Chinese Dumpling restaurants that I frequent in the San Gabriel Valley. I always tell my non-Asian friends that Din Tai Fung is like a haute dining experience; so you get what you pay for in service and in ambiance.
This time around, I placed my order for the Pork Dumplings, the Veggie Pork Dumplings, Chinese Broccoli, and yup…those $22 Truffle Dumplings. I know it was way too much food for one person to eat, but I figured that I deserved to splurge on myself. I also factored in that I would have a nice little “doggy bag” to take home.
Well, the 5-piece gimmicky Truffle Dumpling is unique only to the Glendale location. They are a happy marriage of pork and shavings of the distinguished truffle. They tasted good, but they were a bit of a disappointment since they lacked of enough meat filling inside. Because I didn’t feel like I got a full bite, I felt like I didn’t get my money’s worth.
Soon after engulfing the last Truffle Dumpling, the irresistible Pork Dumplings arrived. I dunked my spoon with some soy sauce, placed a dumpling onto the spoon, and topped it with red chile pepper sauce. In a split second, I devoured the entire dumpling with one quick swoop. Ah, it was delicious! So, too, were the Veggie Pork Dumplings. Each piece were juicy morsels of flavor and packed with a lot of meat filling. Instant gratification with every bite.
As I dined, I couldn’t help but strike a conversation with a Taiwanese lady sitting next to me. We shared how much we enjoyed the food and how often we have frequented the Arcadia location of Din Tai Fung. We both had a love for the modern Asian decor that surrounded us and the bigger size of the restaurant. She had a profound sense of pride explaining how she’s been to Din Tai Fung in Taiwan, China, and the ones in Arcadia. And of all the things, she noticed that the Glendale location is the only Chinese dumpling house that she’s been to where the Service staff is predominantly non-Asian. She said It eliminated the language barrier in ordering the food and attracts a larger, diverse group of customers. I looked around. She was right; about 40% of the patrons were non-Asian. Then she couldn’t help, but point out me that it was a smart business move. I couldn’t agree with her more.
As you have already read, there is a lot to like of the newest Din Tai Fung Dumpling House in Glendale. First, and foremost, I like that Din Tai Fung is setting a dining trend for Chinese Dumplings to a broader audience who would otherwise not know that Chinese dumpling houses existed in the Los Angeles area. I like that there is no language barrier so it makes is easier to order the food. I especially like that there is a full bar to order alcoholic drinks. I also like that the food menu (with the exception of the Truffle Dumplings) is very much the same as its location in Arcadia; an assortment of steamed Chinese dumplings, noodle soups, rice dishes, and stir fried vegetables. And the biggest perk is that the shopping boutiques are within walking distance.
One drawback of the Glendale location is the wait time. Dining is first come, first served basis. No reservations. (Dining at the Bar area is good for dining alone or with one other person, but seating is limited.) The other drawback is the parking. Paid parking is unavoidable. Note it’s 3-hours free valet parking accessible in front of the restaurant or paid self parking with validation so keep that in mind when you dine here.
What to Eat Now: The Strawberry Bingsu at Caffe Bene. My Korean friend introduced me to this dessert the other day. It’s like the rest of the shaved ice desserts that you can find in the Los Angeles area like in San Gabriel Valley. However, what sets this one a part from the rest is that it’s topped with a massive scoop of creamy Strawberry Gelato. This dessert was quite yummy! It obviously had fresh cut strawberries, sweet red bean, and plenty of sweetend condensed milk. The portion size is enough to feed four people, but my friend and I managed to eat this dessert since we were hungry for something cold.
Caffe Bene is new to Los Angeles’ Koreatown yet this coffeehouse brand has been around South Korea for a few years and continues to expand throughout Asia, the United States, and Europe. They specialize in single origin coffee drinks like frothy cappucinos, lattes, mochas, and espresso. They also carry teas and smoothies, Asian-inspired European desserts, dessert waffles, and gelatos. They have a modest sandwich selection too.
Caffe Bene also serves a unique Korean health drink called Misugaru, which is a multigrain beverage that you don’t see anywhere in Los Angeles except for Korean grocery stores and specialty shops in a powered mix. Served either cold or hot, Misugaru is like a meal substitution when you don’t feel like eating. I ordered a hot Misugaru Latte and I quite like it. It tastes a lot like Black Seasame and some almonds. It also has the consistency of a hot cereal or a protein shake.
Caffe Bene has two locations in Koreatown after learning that my friend and I were at two different locations to meet each other for dessert. One location is on Wilshire Blvd and the other location is on Western Avenue across from the Wilshire/Western Metro station. They are open late and have free wifi. Note valet parking, but you could always park on the street metered parking.