Din Tai Fung is one of those restaurants swathed in such orgiastic hyperbole that it's hard to take seriously. You go on Yelp and you read things like "Your first Din Tai Fung dumpling is like your first kiss"; you open the LA Weekly and see foodie-hero Jonathan Gold rhaposidizing even harder than usual; friends who have been there can't talk about it without their eyes rolling back into their heads like sharks about to take a bite of a juicy surfer. There's no way the place can live up to that level of hype.
Oh yes it can.
You're going to have to drive to Arcadia. You're going to have to wait in line on a hot Sunday morning, under canvas umbrellas that never seem to provide any actual shade. You're going to get blasted in the face with steam and noise upon entering the no-frills dining room. You'll ask for water that may or may never come. Your waitress will be there and gone like an efficiency-crazed phantom. None of this is important. Here's what it is: the Xiaolongbao -- “juicy pork dumplings.”
Trying to describe the initial bite of a DTF juicy pork dumpling is like trying to explain an orgasm to someone who’s never had one, but I’m going to give it my best shot. A circular metal tray hits your table and opens in a cinematic rush of steam, revealing a cluster of pale, hand-formed spheres within. You garnish one with a little dab of fresh-cut ginger and a few drops of soy sauce and vinegar. And when your teeth sink through that delicate membrane of dough, the first thing that pops into your mind is flood. A small, unbelievably potent flood of hot, rich pork broth overwhelms your senses, stopping you in your tracks, like the culinary equivalent of a stun grenade. Then the mixture somehow instantly cools as you make your way through the succulent inner morsel of perfectly seasoned ground pork. It’s Chinese street food raised to the level of alchemy, a taste that lingers in your dreams for days afterward.
Back in reality, someone across from you asks “How is it?” And as your eyes roll back in your skull like a hungry shark, you can only think "Oh God, I’ve become one of them."