New Yorkers are dying to try hot dim sum import Tim Ho Wan. The inexpensive chain, which holds a Michelin star in Hong Kong, kicked opened the doors to its new outpost on the corner of Fourth Avenue and East 10th Street last Friday, with limited hours. The lines have not abated since then, and the restaurant is struggling to keep up with the demand. Here’s a report from Eater senior critic Robert Sietsema, who tried to dine there twice since it opened:
Well, the headline says "Say Hello to Tim Ho Wan," and believe me, I’ve tried. The Hong Kong dumpling specialist — which counts three branches in its home town, 45 worldwide — opened here on Friday for lunch (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.). Lines reportedly began to form before 9:30 a.m. on a clear cold day. I decided to hit the place at 1:30 p.m., hoping that the lunch rush would have abated slightly, and a wait of an hour or so might get me inside. Dream on! When I rolled up, there was no line and the guy at the door, who had a bouncer’s demeanor and was smoking a cigarette, told me, "We’ve closed the kitchen for the afternoon and aren’t allowing anyone else in." I went to B & H Dairy for a potato knish with gravy instead.
Saturday the same hours of opening prevailed, though the weather had turned to snow and sleet, altogether a horrible day to stand in line. An accomplice went at 4:30 p.m. to secure our place, and I rode over through the slush to join him a few minutes later. The line extended from 10th Street to 11 Street along 4th Avenue. After a further wait of 50 minutes, during which the queue crept along steadily in a way that encouraged us to remain, we finally reached the front door, where a woman with an iPad stood.
She was very nice, but told us that our further wait would be 2.5 hours, and offered to take our cell number and call us back. I objected, "Normally, when you stand in line, you expect to get in when you reach the front of the line. Couldn’t you have taken our numbers when we arrived so we didn’t have to wait in the sleet?" She shrugged, and didn’t answer. My guess is that the spectacle of dim sum devotees shivering in line for hours was an important element of the opening publicity campaign — as it has been lately for many restaurant chains like Ichiran and Wagamama. And indeed, a sound truck from Channel 11 rolled up and began filming the line.
Why do I care? I consider myself a dim sum fanatic and can’t wait to find out how the product at Tim Ho Wan stacks up against our own home-grown product at our best dim sum halls, places like Joy Luck and Bamboo Garden. My guess is that it’s no better, which makes it sad that a wait of as long as 3.5 hours is required to taste it.
Eater’s restaurant editor Nick Solares spotted this sign in the window a few hours ago:
Tim Ho Wan NYC instantly joins the American Long Line Pantheon, right up there with the queues from Franklin Barbecue in Austin and Howlin Ray’s in Los Angeles. If you have any success getting past the door, please let us know what you think.