Distance can add to the fun of some restaurant destinations. The drive makes the reward all the better, and good or even great doesn't necessarily require frequency. It's fine with me, for example, that Bahooka tiki bar is in Rosemead.
And then there are places that the instant after I walk out the door, I wish I could pick up and move them to my corner. Din Tai Fung Dumpling House is one of those.
As our spouses were busy at work or doing other activities to edify themselves, my friend Andy and I made the drive to Arcadia, home of Santa Anita, the Arboretum among other attractions, for dumplings. Not just any dumplings, but soup dumplings, which contain a bubble of hot broth nestled in the interior. (Apparently the trick is adding a cube of frozen broth before the goods are sealed and steamed.)
Din Tai Fung, with its orderly rows of tables, spotless surfaces, and Le Klint and other stylish (yet really damn bright) lights, is a model of clean, contemporary efficiency. They don't want you to waste their time, nor do they care to fritter yours away.
So despite inevitable waits (about 20 minutes for two on a weeknight), you make good use of these lulls by checking off your order on the list that's handed to you when you're given your number. When seated, they go over what you want, take the top copy, leave you the carbon copy, and then cross off each item as it's delivered to the table.
They know people want their dumplings ASAP. Not only were we glad to be served the pork and less interesting vegetable dumplings quickly, but we also shoveled in the sesame noodles that come beautifully folded like a delicate garment, American broccoli with garlic, and dried string beans as soon as the plates hit the table. The only thing that slowed us down was having to delicately suck out the broth from the dumplings and follow the instructions about how best to eat dumplings with sliced ginger and vinegar; these directions are conveniently illustrated on the back of the chopsticks package.
A stop at Fosselman's in Alhambra topped of the evening. The smoothness of the marshmallows in the Rocky Road ice cream reminded me of the delicate silken texture of the dumpling dough. OK, totally joking here. Din Tai Fung and Fosselman's don't really have much in common.
Since I can't have Din Tai Fung near me, I brought a little souvenir home. Steamed fluffy buns stuffed with packed bundles of pork � the contents of which were clarified by the little piggy sticker on the box � recalled the previous night's joys. If only I could have such a fresh reminder every time I get the Din Tai Fung urge.
Din Tai Fung
1108 S. Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91007