Din Tai Fung
The Americana mall in Glendale is home to a branch of one of the greatest dumpling restaurants on the planet, Din Tai Fung.
While waiting for your table (they’ll text you when it’s ready), you’re free to wander the mall, which is like The Grove, except you can reside at the Americana in some post-modern condominium nightmare wherein you wake up to various American crooners’ greatest hits blasting in time with the gaudy fountains. While we wouldn’t want to live at the Americana, it’s a lovely place to rack up some credit card debt on a lazy weekend, particularly while waiting for a table at arguably the greatest purveyor of soup dumplings in the United States.
We’ve come here on dates, alone, for business lunches, and in big groups when the San Gabriel Valley is just a distance too far for our west-of-La Brea friends. The whole place is a well-oiled operation, starting with the efficient ordering process (they often have you fill out your order form while you wait and have you hand it to your server as soon as you sit), through to the expedient delivery of consistent food to your table.
photo credit: Stan Lee
Pork Xiaolongbao (Soup Dumplings)
Din Tai Fung’s soup dumpling is a high-caliber miracle, the delicate broth and minced pork threatening to break through the impossibly thin dough. They’re handmade with such precision that they often strike us as the same exact dumpling recurring infinitely, albeit deliciously. We sometimes think the broth could be a tad stronger, but these are still in the elite class of soup dumplings. Opt for the pork - the versions with added crabmeat and truffle aren’t as good as the original.
Vegetable and Pork Wontons in Spicy Sauce
A bowl of plump dumplings situated in a crimson puddle. They are simultaneously sugary, spicy and savory, with julienned rings of scallions dished out atop. A must order.
Shanghai Rice Cakes
The boiled slices of rice dough have the texture of gnocchi. They’re stir fried with onions, spinach, soy sauce, and if you want it, meat. Don’t miss out on this terrific chewing experience.
The dumplings (the only fried dumplings anywhere on the menu) are collectively adhered to a wafer-thin fried sheet of dough. More of a textural experience than anything else, they’re the crème brûlée of dumplings.
Fried Pork Chop
A slender deep-fried pork chop, peppered and salted, and then sliced. Delicious plump meat with a crisp exterior.
Go for the bok choy or the blistered string beans. Your mom will totally click like on your Instagram post when she sees you’re at least making an attempt to eat healthy. Skip the spinach, which often arrives a bit too oily.