In my recent Menuism article, I discussed the phenomenon referred to as the Chinese stomach. The Chinese stomach describes the situation where Chinese tourists traveling abroad will seek out local sources of Chinese food, even bad Chinese food, rather than eating the cuisine of the host country. The Chinese stomach is something that has always existed and you can read that article for the possible reasons.
Mere days after the announcement of Din Tai Fung's upcoming branch in Costa Mesa came the announcement of another Din Tai Fung--in the ritzy Americana Shopping Mall in Glendale. By ordinary standards this announcement was stunning. While there were no authentic Chinese restaurants in Costa Mesa, reflecting the demographics of the immediate area, there is a large Chinese population in nearby Orange County communities. But there is no Chinese community anywhere near Glendale, and the only authentic Chinese restaurant that dared to open up in Glendale, Chang Woo BBQ, shut down years ago. But the Chinese stomach explains it all. Strangely, however, the Glehdale Din Tai Fung apparently will only serve xiaolongbao on weekends.
Not to be outdone, the Century City Shopping Mall has lined up Meizhou Dongpo to open up in the next few weeks. Meizhou Dongpo is a Chinese restaurant chain based in Beijing, and their Century City mall branch will be their first American location. Since Meizhou Dongpo specializes in the spicy food of Sichuan province, it will be interesting to see how their menu will or will not be altered. And props should be given to the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City, hardly in the same upscale category as South Coast Plaza, the Americana or Century City mall, which two years ago had the foresight to open up a branch of San Gabriel Valley's 101 Noodle Express on their premises, despite the lack of any critical mass of Chinese constituents in the area.
And the Chinese stomach is marching beyond the regional shopping mall. Universal Studios in Universal City has added Chinese selections to the menus at many of their restaurants. Like the regional malls, Universal Studios wants to make sure that their Chinese tourists don't leave the premises in search of a Chinese meal, and not to return. And a nondescript Chinese restaurant in Los Feliz has a separate Chinese menu for Chinese tourists visiting nearby Griffith Park.