Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Los Angeles restaurants. Right now Eater contrib and Sinosoul blogger Tony Chen writes about Din Tai Fung, the famed dumpling slinger in The SGV:
Din Tai Fung really needs no introduction. It is synonymous with Chinese food in America more so than perhaps any other restaurant. The Taiwanese empire has built two emporiums showcasing made-to-order xiao long baos in Los Angeles. The second branch opened in 2007, and it is where Manager Ms. Jean Chou gently presides over the convenant of xiao long bao faithfuls with the help of an earpiece and walkie talkie. Both Din Tai Fungs, merely yards away from each other, are notorious for the wait, and they accept (nearly) no reservations.
What is the longest wait you've ever witnessed? Almost two and a half hours.
Is there really no trick to escaping the wait? Can I slip in a $20? The only way is to book a private party with a minimum spending of $25 per person.
Beyond that, any advice to getting our chopsticks onto xiao long baos quicker? Come right at opening, or come right before closing.
Right before closing? Like, 30 minutes? We close at 9:30 p.m. at night. We absolutely seat and serve everyone who gets on the waitlist before 9:30 p.m.
You've been with the restaurant for... Twelve years. When the new branch opened, I moved over.
Favorite dish at the restaurant? [laughs] Xiao long bao!
Can you swear there's no difference in taste between the branches? Every ingredient is weighed. Consistency and quality control is important. Even the fried rice is weighed before cooking.
What about the new hands? Do they automatically get dumped into DTF # 1 for training? Doesn't matter. Newbies don't get to touch the wok.
So restaurant # 2 isn't better than # 1? Only when there are larger parties [of 10 or more]. We can manipulate the tables and seating better at the new restaurant.
So how busy is Din Tai Fung, really? [Hems and haws.]
If you had to guess a number, say on a holiday. 1000 heads a day, each branch.
All Front & Center Coverage [~ELA~]