Din Tai Fung-Vegetarian POV
We ate at 1108 S. Baldwin. Still mystified about second location. Got there at five. Waited about fifteen minutes. Family sort of put off by all the hubbub. The vegetarian choices are clearly delineated and we tried all except the fried rice. The noodle soup was bland and could have used some salt. None was on the table and I didn't bother to ask. The vegetarian dumplings were o.k. but the frozen mushroom leek ones I pick up at the 99 Ranch are much more flavorful. We had sesame noodles-nice, but also could have used a bit of salt. The sauteed green beans were really good but not particularly better than anywhere else we've tried. We also had pan fried noodles which were o.k., albeit a bit heavy on the soy sauce. Our non-vegetarian inhaled an order of chicken dumplings and would not hesitate to return. As for the rest of us, I would take folks just for the novelty of the place but as a vegetarian destination, it's not really stellar.
17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA
I never said it was a vegetarian destination and harbored no such expectation.. Gee, sometimes I do find myself in non-vegetarian restaurants and it's good to know what to order and expect.. I'd never been there, I checked the menu on-line and saw a number of vegetarian items and having always wanted to try it, were going to be in the area and we decided to give it a whirl. Plus, we've enjoyed scads of meals outside of the vegetarian ghetto. I was explicit that I wasn't speaking to the cuisine in general, just the vegetarian stuff and from this frame of reference, I think this is totaly valid.
i've reviewed plenty of restaurants that were ok but weren't a stellar DESTINATION restaurant for one type of food or another.
i think that the restaurant was well described by the op's saying, "as a vegetarian destination, it's not really stellar."
by describing it that way, it let me know that if a vegetarian is in my party (my friday night dining group has one vegetarian in it), i probably should not select this restaurant as it is a long drive from my area.
many restaurants don't focus their menu on vegetarians, and they may offer only one or two vegetarian dishes, but those one or two dishes are stellar. knowing that kind of information would be VERY useful to me.
Certainly they're most famous for their xiao long bao, and not being vegetarian does limit your choices there somewhat; I have to kind of agree with ipsedixit and peterl. That said, I'm a vegetarian and will sometimes go there to eat, even on my own -- did just a couple days ago actually.
I think the vegetarian dumplings are pretty good - you can't really compare them to mushroom leek ones for a couple reasons -- 1, the Ding Tai Feng ones are designed to be edible by Buddhist vegetarians, so pungent foods like leek, green onion, etc. are out. 2, they're actually fairly correct for the particular style of dumpling they're trying to make IMHO. Yes, a little bland, but eat some more ginger and vinegar with them. I thought they were a little bland the first time I tried them, but I actually crave them sometimes now.
If you didn't try them, next time, try the vegetarian chao niangao (pretty decent). The "appetizer" is pretty good too - it's baked tofu, bean sprouts, seaweed, and chili. As far as I can tell (and I believe I've asked before), it's also vegetarian.
I'm sure they'll bring you salt if you ask, but there is also soy sauce on most tables, and they will bring chili oil if you ask too.
The red bean dumplings (dessert ones) should be vegetarian also.
The second location is on the other side of the same plaza (just a little north on Baldwin).
I assumed that the various locations would have roughly the same menu - at least that fairly standard things like the vegetarian dumplings would be available. I was really sad to find out (the hard way) that the one in Japan has no vegetarian dishes at all.