As we all know, the renown TimHoWan has arrived in the Big Apple.
The so called “dim sum specialists” have been dominating the scene all over Hong Kong, in Thailand, and even in Australia with their traditional-style dim sum. Why does it matter? They are known to be one of the cheapest Michelin-star rated eateries in the world.
The lines in Hong Kong are notoriously long even though the restaurant has been open for a ages. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t go when I was there. However, I wanted to give it a try now that it’s so close to home, and I’m going to admit: I went in with very low expectations. I mean… how different could dim sum even taste?
Going to work
Probably since they’re still in their soft-opening phase (until Jan. 18!) they limit the number of people they sit per day, which also means they close the waiting list.
To make sure we got to sit and eat, my friend got there just before 9 a.m. and we were not alone.
There was a mixed crowd of people waiting in line for the dim sum place, but what stood out to me was that there were so many Cantonese people. I guess they’re all just like me: trying to get a taste so they can compare a meal they know so well.
We were given the menu while waiting online so we can check off the items we want, which is traditional to the Hong Kong dim sum style instead of the dim sum cart ladies going around the restaurant that I grew up to. We finally got in when the doors opened at 10 a.m. and we were seated right away since we were like fifth in line.
We handed in our menu and looked around. This was what we observed:
• There weren’t that many seats compared to the Chinese/dim sum restaurants in Chinatown.
• It doesn’t have the same loud and busy atmosphere as a regular restaurant.
• There are servers and staff of all different color and race.
• The decor is not like the traditional Chinese phoenix & dragon, but rather a Chinese with a modern flair and bright lights.
After our short observation, our food started to arrive.
Roast Pork Pineapple Buns
The first item that came out were the roast pork pineapple buns, a signature at TimHoWan and one of the items that Yelp reviewers raved about. They came in threes, and pretty quickly.
Verdict: I don’t eat roast pork so I didn’t get to try it, but my friend said it was pretty good. It wasn’t like traditional roast pork buns since they came with the sweet topping. I also felt them and they were pretty soft. I could just imagine how good they would taste right out of the oven.
Then came our chicken feet. I was expecting the rough-skinned chicken feet with black bean sauce and a few chili peppers, but I was disappointed to find that ours came soft and drenched in soy sauce… like regular just soy sauce + peanuts.
Verdict: I was so sad and I did not like it too much. It was too soggy and lacked good flavor.
Fried Turnip cake
We also ordered the turnip cake, which I really wanted to try because when I used to have them, they were cooked to order at dim sum restaurants. They came in threes with a side of… Sriracha (it usually comes with oyster sauce elsewhere.)
Verdict: I liked them more than I thought I would. The cake wasn’t too dense, the outer layer was brown and crispy while the inside remained soft. There are little pieces of Chinese sausage in it so I had to eat around it, but it was still good.
Next came our French toast custard pastries, which came in a set of threes. You usually can’t find these at regular dim sum places so I wanted to try it. The idea of it was pretty cute: deep friend bread with egg custard middle.
Verdict: It wasn’t executed as great as it seemed: the outer layer was too oily and almost moist from oil. The inside filling was good but there was so little of it, and it got absorbed by the bread quickly.
Fried Eggplant + Shrimp
I usually don’t like this shrimp and fried eggplant dish much because the eggplant ALWAYS gets too mushy. This one at TimHoWan came in threes as normal, but I was blown away.
Verdict: This turned out to be one of my favorite dishes! The eggplant was NOT MUSHY and had a great fried texture. I could actually bite into it without it gushing everywhere. It also tasted super fresh.
Chicken + Mushroom + Rice
I admit that I usually don’t order this at dim sum —also because they don’t really serve this— but I was really hungry and wanted to order the lotus leaf rice but I don’t eat beef or pork so I had to settle for this. This dish was really simple and pretty lacking. It was a basic rice dish with chicken and one mushroom cap…
Verdict: I was not impressed with this dish. The rice was mushy, the chicken tasted good only after I added the soy sauce, and it was topped off with only ONE mushroom in the supposed chicken and mushroom dish!!
Tofu With Fish Paste + Black Bean
I wasn’t really sure why I ordered this dish since I don’t really like any of these ingredients. I guess I wanted to be adventurous, and also because it wasn’t a common dish for dim sum. It came with two squares of firm tofu topped with fish paste and black bean sauce.
Verdict: I did not love this dish no did I hate it. I liked the firmness of the tofu but the fish paste was bland and the black bean sauce left a sour taste in my mouth. The only other flavor was the soy sauce that you pour over yourself, so it’s not even standard. I was not impressed.
Plain Rice Noodles
This is a staple in dim sum and there are also many variations—with roast pork, beef, shrimp, so on. But, we decided to go simple and just get these noodles with scallions and soy sauce.
Verdict: Good, fresh, and simple! The consistency is great because it wasn’t too chewy or too soggy, which tends to happen often.
TimHoWan is a popular dim sum restaurant, and it’s great that it’s here in New York City. However, it’s a place to venture only once, and that probably will be enough. There are a lot of other good dim sum places all over the city and in all the boroughs, so there isn’t a need to wait for hours for this one. All in all, it’s good but not amazing. It’s something to try once, and that would be enough.