The first time I went to Din Tai Fung, all I had to do was walk across this pedestrian skybridge connecting the mall to my hotel in Bellevue, WA where we were staying for a conference. T and I went 3 times that weekend and I started trying to come up with reasons why we would need to come back to Bellevue just to feed my dumpling craving. It’s a little crazy to think that we would fly to Seattle before driving to Arcadia for dumplings, but there you go.
I finally did make it to the Arcadia location, and then the new Arcadia location, but only because I was attending a training course near Pasadena that left me with plenty of time to explore on my own. When we heard that Din Tai Fung was opening a location in Costa Mesa, a spot not only closer to San Diego but also conveniently located close to both our respective companies in Orange County, I started to get excited. It also helps that it’s kind of on the way home from Disneyland.
We always order the same thing… always. I think it’s because we’re usually there when it’s just the two of us, and we know how much we can reasonably eat. I’m sure if we went with a group of people, we’d explore more of the menu. We always get the cucumber salad, an order of pork XLB, and an order of the pork wontons in spicy sauce. Lately, we get 2 orders of the wontons in spicy sauce so we don’t have to share. Whatever magical combination of oil, spices, and sugar goes into that sauce has me hooked. I’ve tried reverse engineering it, but I just can’t get it right. I’ve also been searching all over San Diego to find the right combination of wontons and spicy sauce, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful.
Sometimes we get the green beans (also garlicky, always perfectly cooked) or the potstickers (with all the crispy edges and borders).
The cucumbers are always cool and crisp, with a nice punch of garlic and chili oil. This I can recreate at home, and often do when we have cucumbers in the fridge and I want a snack more exciting than hummus.
I am, in no way, an expert in XLB (I admit to visiting Dumpling Inn for a quick fix and being perfectly happy) and these make me happy every time. The dumplings come out quickly, they’re always hot, and they’re always full of soup. Thanks to Kirbie, I now have a vinegar/soy ratio to aim for as a dipping sauce.
I do wish the Costa Mesa location would let you call in an order to go. It would be so convenient to be able to just swing by and take some wontons and spicy sauce home instead of gambling on the wait time for a table (on one visit, the wait time went from 30 minutes to 2 hours, somehow, in the 30 minutes between my calling them and us arriving at South Coast Plaza). If we get there early enough, we’ll often just wait for a bar spot to open up instead of waiting for hours on end.
What we learned on a previous visit was that you can get 2 orders of wontons to go. But, I think it depends on your server and possibly even the manager on duty that day. Our last visit, our server said there wasn’t a limit to how much we could order to go at the end of our meal, but we didn’t want to push things so we just got our 2 orders of wontons in spicy sauce to take home. I like it because it’s all packaged separately, and there’s always plenty of sauce so I’ll steam additional wontons when we get home to stretch it all out.