99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Din Tai Fung

photo by Danny Liao

Happily these days there are many places in L.A., particularly in the San Gabriel Valley, where you can get an order of xiao long bao, the basket of Shanghai-style soup dumplings uncovered with a flourish when it arrives at your table, like the magic trick it is. So easy is it to find XLB that you might sometimes question the wisdom of waiting in the invariably long lines at any of the three Din Tai Fung locations. Bring your Tolstoy-loaded Kindle, because however long the wait is, it’s worth it — particularly at the original shop in Arcadia, the first U.S. branch of the famous Taipei dumpling palace. Din Tai Fung’s dumplings are works of art, their near-perfect architecture of filling and soup and wrapper repeated 10 times in each basket. Ask for (at least) one order of the juicy pork dumplings, then as many as you can manage of the rest, plus maybe some shao mai and spicy wontons, fried rice and mustard greens and cucumbers — we could go on, but maybe just get in your car and get in line instead.

-- Amy Scattergood