New Yorkers are going gaga for the newly opened branch of the Hong Kong-based Tim Ho Wan, one of the world’s cheapest Michelin Star restaurants. Lines of hopeful diners have circled the block in the East Village, wait times have often exceeded two hours and the local reviewers can’t stop swooning.
The unassuming façade and simple interior of the 60-seat restaurant belie the glories of Tim Ho Wan’s specialty: made-to-order dim sum. You won’t find the typical dim sum rolling carts filled with pre-cooked items here; every dish is prepared fresh to order and brought straight from the kitchen to your table.
The delicate wrapper of the siu mai (steamed pork dumplings with shrimp, topped with a goji berry) gives way to the amazingly fresh and flavourful meat inside. Unwrap a lotus leaf to reveal a steaming portion of fragrant sticky rice loaded with chicken and Chinese sausage.
The turnip cake, a signature dish, is a steamed, pan-fried, tasty surprise. And the chain’s most famous item, the baked barbecue pork bun, is delightfully crisp, with a pleasing spurt of warm, sauce-rich pork within. For dessert, the French toast with custard — created especially for the New York menu — is a dream of eggy sweetness.
Tim Ho Wan New York is the first in North America (others are planned in Los Angeles and Honolulu later this year) and the 45th in the chain, which until now has been limited to Southeast Asia and Australia. There are rumours that another may open in Brooklyn; but until then, how will the East Village branch handle the surging crowds? General manager Tony Chan shrugs and smiles. With patience, he says. With longer hours. With good humour. “We can’t accommodate all eight million people in New York,” says Chan, with a hopeful sigh, “but, we’ll try.”