As you probably know, Din Tai Fung, the glorious dumpling palace that specializes in soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, recently opened in Glendale. And not just anywhere in Glendale but in the über-mall of the Americana at Brand. It's the third branch of Din Tai Fung to open in Los Angeles -- the other two are both on Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia -- and the fourth in America. If you're counting, that fourth Din Tai Fung is in Bellevue, Wash., and there's a fifth outpost opening soon in Seattle's university district and plans for yet another branch of the restaurant in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. As if you needed more reasons to live on the West Coast.
What you think about the new Din Tai Fung depends a lot upon your view of malls, specifically the enormous upscale versions of them, with Apple genius bars and Kate Spade shops and actual concierges, where this time of year fake snow falls miraculously from the sky while Frank Sinatra sings his specific mall repertoire.
You may not be a mall person. Or, more accurately, the kinds of malls you like may be the grungy strip malls of the San Gabriel Valley, in which you can park yourself right outside, slide into a booth without a wait and eat your dumplings about 10 minutes later, your tea poured by the same person who poured it last week. We won't argue with that, but we thought we'd come up with five solid reasons why you might want to give the new Din Tai Fung a try.
5. Valet parking.
Valet parking at a mall is possibly the apotheosis of American culture, one-stop shopping adjusted for large-car ownership. And it's true that finding a place to park near the Din Tai Fungs in Arcadia can take longer than waiting in line for your dumplings. So just pull your car up to the valet stand in front of the restaurant on South Brand Avenue, hand your keys to the guy, and take your valet ticket along with the dumpling checklist. Ta-da.
4. Truffle dumplings.
This is not a picture of truffle dumplings, because some of us are neither foreign dignitaries -- to whom, along with "very special guests in Taiwan," these dumplings were supposedly first served -- nor get paid like them (the dumplings will run you $22.50 for five). But if you're the sort of person, diplomatic plates or no, who likes steamed truffled dumplings, then this seems reason enough to head to the mall. And if you think about it, a soup dumpling is a lot better use of truffles than a bottle of truffle oil.
3. It's way closer for people who still think the SGV is in Vermont.
Baffling though it may be, there are a great many Angelenos for whom the San Gabriel Valley seems preposterously far away, a distant mirage of Sichuan restaurants and phở houses that they read about in magazines and food blogs but just can't manage to find in real life. Glendale, while still a bit of a trek from the Westside, just doesn't seem that far away. It's right off the familiar 134 and close-ish to Griffith Park and the zoo. Somebody probably bought a Lexus there once. Of course, in reality, either Din Tai Fung in Arcadia is really only about eight miles further from where you started out -- but some distances are metaphorical, aren't they.