[LA/Monterey Park] Dean Sin World

We took a trip to LA back in May for a concert, and of course we had to plan some food stops as well. I had read great reviews of Dean Sin World on Kirbie’s Cravings, Gastronomy Blog, and mmm-yoso, so we decided to check it out.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the storefront, but luckily you can see pictures from the other blogs that I linked. When I visited, the banner that indicated its name, Dean Sin World, was no longer there, and we only saw the “Tastio Bakery Deli” sign. It was a bit confusing, but I made sure that it was the right place. The shop was pretty small, but since we were there in the mid-afternoon, we were the only customers.

Pork & Vegetable Dumplings 白菜水餃:
Pork & Vegetable Dumplings

We were floored by the prices here. I guess I should have expected it since it was LA, but this order of ten dumplings cost us less than $5! They were also really delicious – the house-made dumpling wrappers had a nice “pull”, and the fillings were flavorful and juicy. These dumplings really put everything we have in SD to shame.

Spicy Wontons 紅油抄手:
Spicy Wonton

The spicy wontons were also delicious. …

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Myung In Dumplings

Myung In Dumplings is a Los Angeles-based chain that opened its first San Diego outpost a couple of months ago. I’ve never had Chinese-Korean dumplings and wanted to try it out.

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Shortly after being seated, we were given some complimentary side dishes – pickled radish and kimchi. They weren’t the best, but I’m not being too picky.

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Myung In’s specialty is, obviously, dumplings but also mandu – basically Chinese steamed buns. We ordered some of each.

Boiled Dumpling with Pork & Vegetable [$8]

Boiled Dumpling with Pork & Vegetable [$8]

Boiled Dumpling with Kimchi & Pork [$8]

Boiled Dumpling with Kimchi & Pork [$8]

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Sharetea

Sharetea is a Taiwanese bubble tea franchise that recently opened in San Diego. I’ve had their milk tea in Berkeley before and was excited to hear that they were expanding to SD!

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Our first visit was on Grand Opening Day, June 1. The special promo was buy 1 get 1 free – but it wasn’t until we were close to the front of the line that we learned the free drink was limited to the classic milk tea with tapioca. I didn’t mind too much, but I can imagine some customers feeling misled.

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This mural looks like it was done by the same artist as the one from Infini Tea. There is a little tapioca pearl dressed in the cultural outfit for each of the countries where there’s a Sharetea franchise!

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My favorite was obviously the koala tapioca pearl, representing Australia.

On our first visit, we tried the Okinawa (brown sugar) milk tea, which was quite tasty. But the wait time for the drinks was over half an hour – just for milk tea! It didn’t seem like their line was very optimized, and a bit chaotic. But it was grand opening day, so I sort of expected it.

We returned about a week later, around 10pm on a Saturday night.

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Dumpling Inn

Dumpling Inn, a popular Chinese restaurant specializing in Shanghai cuisine, recently underwent a large expansion and renovation. In addition, the restaurant space will also house Shanghai Saloon, a new concept that features craft beer, a whiskey lounge, and an Asian fusion menu. I’ve never been to the old Dumpling Inn because of the long wait times, but after the new space opened, S and I went to check it out with some friends.

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I really liked the old Chinese village-style decor! It definitely gave the place an old-school feel.

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There were these signs to “separate” Shanghai Saloon and Dumpling Inn. But I don’t really think the seating sections were very clearly separated. Also, I think a lot of customers for Dumpling Inn were confused why they couldn’t be seated at the nearly-empty Shanghai Saloon sections. Clearly, some kinks still needed to be worked out.

We visited Dumpling Inn for a “test visit” and just tried a couple of items…

Pork Potsticker [$8]

Pork Potsticker [$8]

The pork potstickers were decent, although I didn’t really like the wrapper. The pan-fried side could have been crispier, and I thought that the wrapper was overall too thick and dough-y.

Pork Xiaolongbao [$8]

Pork Xiaolongbao [$8]

The pork XLB (soup dumplings) were slightly disappointing to me – but then, it could be because I had visited Din Tai Fung recently. The filling was juicy enough, but the wrappers were too thick… Sounds like a recurring theme, huh.

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The pork filling was pretty good, though, and I did get a decent amount of soup (although fellow blogger Lynn didn’t quite have the same experience).

We left feeling a bit disappointed… but undeterred. I attributed the less-than-impressive food to the fact that they were still adjusting to their new space. So we returned, just a few days later, with a larger group.

Pork Dumplings (boiled) [$8]

Pork Dumplings (boiled) [$8]

This time, instead of the potstickers, we opted for the boiled dumplings. To my surprise, these were much better – the wrapper was about the right thickness, and the filling was quite flavorful.

Garlic Baked Seabass Filet [$12.95]

Garlic Baked Seabass Filet (鍋塌魚片) [$12.95]

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[Costa Mesa] Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung, a popular Taiwanese chain that specializes in soup dumplings (aka xiaolongbao, or XLB), opened its first Orange County location last year inside South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. S and I are huge fans of DTF, and we actually visited shortly after their grand opening last year (complete with a 3-hour wait for a table, yikes!). Unfortunately, the photos from the initial visit got lost, and even though we’ve been back several times already on various LA/OC trips, I’ve only gotten around to posting about it now…

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As I just mentioned, when DTF first opened in the mall, the waits were 3-4 hours for dinner (on weekends, at least). However, on our most recent visit, the wait times were much more reasonable – about 30 minutes for Saturday dinner. Luckily, it’s located in the mall so we always do some shopping while waiting, and the restaurant will send you a text message when your table is almost ready.

The restaurant is quite modern and even has a full bar. FYI, if you don’t want to wait for a text, you can also wait for a table in the bar area which supposedly has a shorter waiting period. However, most bar area tables seat just two.

Cucumber Salad [$4.3]

Cucumber Salad [$4.3]

The cucumber salad is one of our favorite appetizers – crisp and refreshing, the cukes are served with a sesame oil/soy sauce mix.

Pork Xiaolongbao [$9.5]

Pork Xiaolongbao [$9.5]

Of course, the standard pork XLB (S doesn’t eat shrimp, and I’m allergic to crab, so no seafood allowed in our XLB). One thing that has always impressed me about DTF is their consistent quality. The chain is famous for their precision, of course, in that the wrapper is the same thickness, the filling is the same, and every dumpling has exactly 18 pleats. Somehow, they manage to keep the wrappers thin and elastic, without breaking (usually). The XLB here were really tasty as always, and I love the juicy, flavorful pork filling, especially when mixed with a bit of black vinegar and ginger slice.

Rice & Pork Shao Mai [$10]

Rice & Pork Shao Mai [$10]

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[Irvine] Four Sea Restaurant & Taiwan Popcorn Chicken

S and I recently took a “food trip” to Irvine/LA with our friend A. We first stopped by a couple of places in Irvine – Four Sea Restaurant, which serves up authentic Taiwanese breakfast. I’ve posted on it before, and was really excited to visit again.

米漿 - Rice Peanut Milk [$2.40]

米漿 – Rice Peanut Milk [$2.40]

My number one reason for loving this place? The rice peanut milk, which is made by grinding pre-soaked rice and roasted peanuts into a powder and mixing with water. The end result is a smooth, creamy, nutty drink. If you’ve never had rice peanut milk before, definitely try it when you get a chance.

鹹豆漿 - Salty Soy Milk [$2.50]

鹹豆漿 – Salty Soy Milk [$2.50]

A ordered the salty soy milk, which is soy milk with you tiao (fried cruller), chives, and chili oil. I’m not a huge fan of salty soy milk, but she really enjoyed it.

蘿蔔糕加蛋 - Fried Daikon Cake w/ Egg [$5]

蘿蔔糕加蛋 – Fried Daikon Cake w/ Egg [$5]

The fried daikon cake (I think it’s actually usually called turnip cake) is S’s favorite item here – the turnip cake has a nice and crispy exterior and really flavorful. All of us really enjoyed it here. Unlike the Cantonese version of this dish, Taiwanese turnip cake doesn’t usually have fillings, but that’s the way he likes it.

蛋餅加肉鬆 - Egg Crepe w/ Pork Sung [$4.5]

蛋餅加肉鬆 – Egg Crêpe w/ Pork Sung [$4.5]

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Dede’s Teajuice City revisit

S and I were craving Szechuan food a while back and decided to revisit Dede’s Teajuice City (since Spicy City, our usual favorite in SD, is usually pretty crowded). I had an okay impression of it last time but thought I’d give it another chance.

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We decided to skip the cold plate this time since we wanted to order more of the entrées.

毛血旺 - Pork blood w/ meat & vegetables in spicy sauce [$12.99]

毛血旺 – Pork blood w/ meat & vegetables in spicy sauce [$12.99]

The first thing that caught my eye from the menu was the “mao xue wang”, pictured above. Traditionally, it’s made with pork or duck blood, eel, mung bean sprouts, pork, and other various vegetables and offal, stewed in spicy broth. I was pretty disappointed with the version here, – there was no basically no flavor other than the chili oil, indicating that the ingredients probably weren’t cooked long enough in the broth? It didn’t distinguish itself from the “shui zhu” (boiled meat/fish in hot sauce) that’s also on the menu, either.

蒜泥白肉 - Sliced fatty pork in hot garlic sauce [$10.99]

蒜泥白肉 – Sliced fatty pork in hot garlic sauce [$10.99]

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Iceskimo

Iceskimo started out as a pop-up shop serving snow-shaved ice, or snowflake ice. I’ve visited the pop-up shop several times last summer, and they finally opened a brick-and-mortar store in October last year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t around for the grand opening weekend, and after that I just was never in the mood for a cold treat – until one recent day when the craving for snow ice suddenly kicked in, and I finally got to check out the store!

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Too bad it was already dark out when I went… the building is painted a really lovely shade of blue, and the little round logo is quite adorable.

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They’ve changed things up a bit – now, you can “build your own snow” – basically pick a flavor, and add any amount of toppings from the toppings bar. Most of them are what you’d see at a frozen yogurt shop, actually.

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Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

I’ve had Little Sheep Mongolian hot pot at home before, since you can easily buy the soup base mix at Asian grocery stores. However, I have always wanted to visit the actual restaurant and see if there’s actually any differences, and recently S and I went with some friends for a hot pot dinner.

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The restaurant is located in the same strip mall as Ramen Yamadaya on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. We went on a Saturday evening, and it was crowded. The entire lobby area was full, and there were several groups waiting outside. Pro-tip: if you have a party of 6 or more, you can make a reservation. Good thing we did, because the waits seemed to be at least an hour long.

There is an induction cooktop at each table, and for our group of 6, we had two cooktops (and therefore two pots). S and I shared a spicy hot pot with one of our friends, while the other three shared a “yin-yang” pot, consisting of half spicy and half original. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the cool-looking yin-yang pot.

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The soup had the same distinct smell – heavy on the cumin – and looked like it had more spices than the packaged soup base mix. Maybe there really is a difference, after all – the meat actually did taste more flavorful. I noticed that they had way more green onion stems and garlic cloves than what the soup mix called for, so maybe I should also try to increase that next time at home.

Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of everything since I was too distracted by cooking/eating/chatting… So these are just a few shots that I managed to snag throughout the meal.

Supreme Angus Beef [$13.95/12 oz]

Supreme Angus Beef [$13.95/12 oz]

Supreme Lamb Shoulder [$13.95/12 oz]

Supreme Lamb Shoulder [$13.95/12 oz]

The meat quality here was really quite good. Of course, we did choose the more “premium” meats….

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Trinitea

S and I are always on the lookout for new milk tea shops, so when we read about Trinitea on Kirbie and CC‘s blogs, we decided to try it out. Although we’re rarely in Hillcrest, we found an opportunity to visit after having lunch at Streetcar Merchants.

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The place was quite spacious, with the ordering counter tucked away in a corner and lots of tables. I think they’re trying to make it into a cool “hang out” spot, with board games and wifi and whatnot.

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Close-up of the menu. They have pretty much the “standard” milk tea offerings as well as a bunch of coffees, blended drinks, and flavored teas. …

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