We compromised. I wanted the lions head meatballs, which were not soup in the picture, but were soup in person. She was aiming for the soup dumplings - XLB if you prefer. So Dan obediently got them - the crab kind.
Both dishes were quite delicious, if not earth shattering. The lions head meatball soup was straight-up comfort food - soy based broth, lots of cabbage, mild-spiced light meat. It tasted like Jewish stew to both me and Dan (save the glass noodles).
As for the crab XLB, I actually thought that they stood up to Din Tai Fung's in quality. Yes, the skin is thicker here. No, there isn't as much juice. But the crab tastes much fresher. And they have a nice, unique, pre-mixed vinegar bowl. And it's way, way cheaper. And also:
While we were eating, the lady who had been cooking in the kitchen came marching out with a tray full of about 50 steaming pork buns and put them down on the table behind us. Customers, out of absolutely nowhere, started streaming in off the street and ordering these buns off the tray in little to-go boxes. 50 shrunk to 25 before we knew it.
But before they started going like hotcakes, she plucked a bun from the tray, neatly sawed it in half, and placed it on our table, speaking the only two English words I heard from her all day: "Free. Good!"
And so it was. Good and mustardy and flaky.
Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754