We came upon this place when we (David and I) were in San Francisco and were discussing the history of dim sum. We were wondering how it’s origins started in the United States (the nation being such a melting pot). Hang Ah in San Fran had proudly boasted itself being one of the firsts in the U.S. With roots dating back to the 1920s. Although that may be true, we also searched and found there were actually many dim sum restaurants that had started in 1920s. A group if them taking root in New York City. Definitely bit surprising seeing as many immigrants had crossed Ellis Island to get into this nation.
When researching (via Yelp and Google) we found this particular restaurant: Tim Ho Wan. The chef that opened this restaurant specializes in dim sum dishes and had recently opened up locations in the U.S. Their locations overseas landed themselves a Michelin Star so we thought perhaps it was worthy to be tried out since it was very rare simple food like dim sum gets a Michelin Star, ya know? We prepped ourselves for a long wait since it’s supposedly REALLY popular, and we were correct. The wait was over an hour to two hours for large groups. The weather was freezing and the extended seating area had absolutely no heater. LOL Everyone waiting in that area basically froze to death. But the good thing was there was a particular hostess that was extremely pleasant. She asked if everyone would like some hot tea to keep warm while waiting and made sure everyone got one. Eventually we lucked out and only waited about 50 minutes since there was only two of us and got seated.
Surprisingly limited menu, what is up with city dim sum places and having intensely limited dim sum menus? LOL. We ordered turnip cake, spare ribs, steamed beef balls, rice roll with minced beef, and siu mai. It was… Utterly disappointing. I’m not saying this to be mean, but in all honesty. I live in SoCal in the suburbs near the San Gabriel Valley where there’s a dense population of East Asian immigrants. As a result we get amazing mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants (dim sum included). Not to mention I’ve also lived a part of my life in China and Hong Kong, dim sum is king there. Perhaps it’s because it’s a franchise? Or maybe it’s a large restaurant? Or maybe the chef was too qualified for simple dishes (as in overthinking the recipe when it really only needed the basics)? I’m not sure, but every dish tasted mediocre.
The turnip cake was far more bitter than I would’ve liked. I had a really hard time finishing it because it was SO bitter. Although I appreciated the way it was nicely pan seared with a crisp on the outside leaving a fine texture when taking a bite. The siu mai and beef ball both were awfully bland with no flavors or natural juices that usually makes meat tastier and juicier. The spare ribs were unfortunately also tasteless and slightly rubbery like it was steamed for too long. The food was not worth the wait at all and I was so bummed by the quality of the food.
The atmosphere was nice though, spacious and modern. They also had a bar that you can eat at (whist standing though), but you can peer into the kitchen and watch the sou chefs prep each dish.
Only giving them an extra star for that amazing hostess! Would I come again? Probably not.
85 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003
b/t Cooper Sq & Bowery, East Village