Leslie and I woke very early this morning and drove to Pasadena together to shop the Pasadena City College Flea Market. Pasadena is one of the best of the monthly swap meets, it is free, it starts a little later than the others, and much of it is indoors, in a parking structure protected from the elements.
I wanted to see if I could find some treasures for my upcoming Palm Springs Modernism Show, which runs February 14 - 17. While the fall Modernism show is good, the February just trumps it in spades, it is just fabulous. Prestigious show, not cheap to do, great material, very fun week.
Well, no sooner had we left the parking structure than I walked up to a booth with two fantastic pieces of art that will be perfect for the show. We negotiated for a short while but found a win win place and in the end everybody was happy. Took all of my cash and a whole bunch more from my wife but we scored something rare and wonderful and I am very happy.
It was a beautiful morning. We split up and walked around for several more hours and I think I bought three more nice paintings but nothing of the magnitude of the first purchase. My wife bought for her store. Leslie and I had been talking about going to La Cabanita or perhaps Zankou afterwards, it was after noon when we had both finished.
But I had an idea. Would she like to try the original Din Tai Fung in Arcadia? She said she would. I had eaten there once by myself but she had never.
Din Tai Fung is a legendary restaurant. It was started in Taiwan as a cooking oil retail shop by Yang Bingyi in 1958. The cooking oil business started slipping and Yang got a yen for cooking. Bingyi converted half of his shop to the making of handmade soup dumplings or xiao long bao. They were a smash hit and became a full fledged restaurant in 1972.
Another location was opened in Tokyo in 1996 and the Arcadia restaurant in 2000. Now there are locations all over the world. The restaurant was named one of the top ten restaurants in the world at one point by the New York Times, it has won multiple Michelin stars.
Cooks in surgical masks craft the food in view behind tall glass windows to order. Everything is fresh. Ingredients are first rate. I can humbly state that I am a xiao long bao connoisseur and this is by far the best I have ever tasted.
We were lucky. Last time I was there there was a forty five minute wait. We waltzed right in. We were met by the pleasant server and led to our table in the relatively small original location on Baldwin Avenue. A small bowl of julienned ginger sat before each of us. we prepared our sauce with soy, chili and vinegar. We ordered a carafe of lovely oolong tea.
We started off today with sweet and sour pork baby back ribs. Leslie said sweet and sour is almost a misnomer, nothing cloying or oversweet, just so delicious. Next came a metal lidded tray of steamed xiao long bao, our choice was simple kurobata pork, we could also have had truffle or snow crab.
Our next entree was chicken dumplings, magnificent, piping hot and they were soon followed by shrimp and pork pot stickers which had the flat top layer like the pan fried we ate in Toronto and loved so much, the jin jin bao.
Everything was just outrageously good, there are so many things on the menu we want to try next month when we return. We finished off the meal with a chicken and mushroom bun, which we split, delectable.
Meal was not expensive, and worth every penny. I can't vouch for the other locations but the California original will be hard to beat.
Din Tai Fung
1108 S. Baldwin Ave., #B4
Arcadia, CA 91007