A few days before Christmas my nephew and his wife treated me to dinner at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia (store #2 at 1088 S. Baldwin Ave).
My only previous Din Tai Fung experience (in Beijing in 2007) was one of those Wow! restaurant experiences that take a cherished spot in my memory. On that occasion I was suffering some stomach distress (not uncommon for me when I travel) and I planned to have plain steamed rice and tea (my usual remedy) and perhaps just try a single XLB to see what they were like. I ended up eating as many dumplings as my friends and my stomach ache was cured in the process. I had expected the crab or crab+pork versions to be my favorites, but the pure pork was the most magnificent. I had been wondering ever since if they really could be as special as I remembered. I've had some pretty good XLB in the Bay Area, with good flavor, thin skins and lots of soup, so how much better could those at Din Tai Fung have been?
A lot better, as I discovered in Arcadia. The flavor was somehow delicate and intense at the same time. The variable texture had nice contrasts and was overall softer than most. I don't know how they do it but the result is head and shoulders above the best I've had in the Bay Area. There are occasional rumors that DTF is planning a branch in SF but it never comes to fruition. I will keep hoping.