The last time I visited Tim Ho Wan with Jun and a couple of other friends for a party of four, we arrived at the restaurant around 1 p.m. and was quoted 4 hours wait. As much as we wanted to try the first U.S. outpost of a popular Hong Kong dim sum place boasting its Michelin star, we were too hungry to wait that long (we still put our names down just in case to see if that 4-hour wait was real, and got the text back about 2.5 hours later). On the next visit last weekend, our party size was much larger (7 total vs. 4 last time). Before our Sunday pilates class at noon in the Koreatown neighborhood, we stopped by and put my name down hoping that we can meet up with the rest of our party after our class. This time, we were quoted a two-year wait. “Hm…interesting…” so everyone thought. Has the hype for Tim Ho Wan died down? We did get the table two hours later. So, was this place worth a multi-hour wait? Not quite…
I’m not arguing that the dim sum dishes at Tim Ho Wan sucks. To the contrary, there were certainly good dishes. Many people’s favorite was the baked BBQ pork bun that was sweet on the outside and had silky smooth texture of bun that worked wonderfully with the hearty BBQ pork inside (although Jun wasn’t a fan of the dish for being overly sweet). Steamed shrimp dumpling (har gow) was also warm and delicious, as was steamed rice roll with shrimp and Chinese chives as well as pan fried turnip cake. There were also quite a few misses. I couldn’t remember much about dishes like steamed beef balls or steamed bean curd with meat and vegetables. Not that they were bad, but there wasn’t any memorable about them either. Steamed pork spare rib certainly could’ve come out with more meaty parts to chew on, and I’ve certainly had better siu mai (steamed pork dumplings with shrimp) elsewhere.
The biggest issue I’ve had overall with the dim sum dishes at Tim Ho Wan was distribution of shells. In other words, I felt the dumpling shells were too think such that the volume of contents (whether shrimp, pork or other vegetables) inside oftentimes didn’t give that fullness that I was looking for from other more generous places in Chinatown. Was the restaurant skimping on the use of its ingredients? I couldn’t tell but people walked out the restaurant all saying in unison Tim Ho Wan left something to be desired and definitely not worth a two-hour wait.
I was somewhat puzzled when we finally got seated since, despite the lines outside, there were some empty spaces. It looked like the table turnover was not being done as efficiently as it should be for a dim sum restaurant that relies on quick turnovers to sell as many dumplings as possible. The tea that was served was OK. There was a good mix of Caucasian and Asian crowd inside the dining space. I wonder how the dim sum aficionados from Chinese background would’ve felt about the restaurant after dining there. What I can say is that for the next dim sum trip, Jun and I will probably head elsewhere in Chinatown.
- Creativity: 7.0/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 7.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 85 4th Avenue, New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 228-2800