Billing itself as the world’s cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan is an international chain of dim sum restaurants. The first location in Hong Kong earned a star in 2010 and has kept it for the pas 9 years, three of the subsequent locations in Hong Kong also earned Michelin stars. However, I don’t think the location in New York’s East Village is going to earn a star, it was really good, but the restaurant had not even earned an A rating on New York City’s restaurant inspection grading report card. I don’t usually eat at B graded restaurants, but I didn’t see the grade card until I left the restaurant. There are now 47 locations worldwide and in 2018 the chain was bought out by a venture capital fund, so I expect the expansion will accelerate.
At the East Village location the dim sum is not served from roving cards pushed around the restaurant. Instead the place mats are covered with pictures of the food which are labelled with letters and numbers and serve as the menu. You order by reading the place mat and then filling out a card indicating how many servings of each dish you want.
There were a few specials available and we tried the fish ball and quid in curry sauce, usually one of my favorite dishes. The version at Tim Ho Wan was not great, the curry sauce was thin and very mild, the squid was over cooked beyond rubbery and body pieces were not edible and the dish came with large pieces of tripe, which was not mentioned in the description of the dish. Thankfully the dumplings were really good.
The Dumplings: While I thought the menu was a little sparse compared to other dim sum places I frequent (XO Taste, XO Kitchen, Veggie Dim Sum), Tim Ho Wan has a good selection of dumplings and buns. Their BBQ Pork buns are not the traditional steamed white bread buns with pink pork breaking through the top, but rather, look like a baked desert bun. They are also not the gut filling size of a traditional steamed bun, they are smaller and come three to an order. But most importantly the buns were delicious, and were packed with sweat BBQ pork and lots of tangy BBQ sauce.
Probably though, the standout for the night were the shrimp Har Gow, they were so good we ended getting four orders of them. The rice dough wrappers were tightly wrapped around coarsely chopped, super fresh, sweet tasting shrimp. One of the things I appreciated about the service was the speed with which they were getting food from the steamers to the table. When Haw Gow sit for even a little while after coming out of the steam the rice dough gets sticky and gummy, these ones still had all their steamed heat and were slippery and supple. My dining companions with weaker chop stick skills had a hard time holding onto the Har Gow.
I was warned by a friend that the Shumai are not the strongest option at Tim Ho Wan, but I thought they were quite good, in fact we got two orders of them. They were filled with more of the sweet tasty shrimp mixed with savory pork, and once again got to our table immediately out of the steam. The last dish we tried was the fried pork dumplings, which arrived on the table looking like goose eggs. These dumplings are deep fried so the rice flour wrapper develops an out layer of crispiness and the dumpling balloons out into an egg shape. I though these dumplings had a really nice balance, the wrappers were slightly sweet and the pork filling was salty and savory and the wrappers were both crispy and chewy. These dumplings were a contender with the Har Gow for best dumplings of the night.
The Location: Tim Ho Wan is on the Western edge of New York’s East Village neighborhood, on fourth avenue at the corner of 10th street. It is conveniently close to Union Square, New York University and the L train stops.