Chandavkl discussing dim sum in Los Angeles and San Francisco


#1

#2

Given all the heavy hitters that have come to LA as of late, THW needs to open up a branch already!


#3

so, longo seafood: where does it rank?


#4

Except that at least in New York, Tim Ho Wan is a one trick pony, i.e., the crispy bbq pork bun.


#5

Sometimes all you need is 1


#6

why?


#7

because delicious, delicious pork bun.


#8

The ones in Manhattan are not all that good.


#9

that is unfortunate.


#10

Tim Ho Wan really isn’t a standout even in New York’s sorry dimsum scene. SF crispy BBQ pork buns are better. But I’m not complaining about the two orders I had at Tim Ho Wan NY.


#12

that sure helps us in LA.


#13

Hong Kong East Ocean in Emeryville has had menus instead of carts since 1995.


#14

It’s misleading to say that the BBQ pork crispy baked pineapple bun helped earn THW their Michelin star.
I think there are far more factors that contributed to their success.

While that pineapple bbq pork bun is one of their signatures and and maybe the most famous, THW is also well known for the pan fried turnip cake, liver cheung fun, and the “malai” steamed sponge cake in Hong Kong (to name a few).

The whole idea behind THW was the anti-Michelin star factor, a former Lung King Heen 3 Michelin star chef leaving and starting his own dim sum restaurant. The fact they got a Michelin star spoke volumes to critics who confirmed how out of touch Michelin really is, but that’s another sentiment for another discussion.
A good part of THW’s success lies in their business model/MO of primarily efficiency and a smaller/exacting menu of steadfast classics and traditional offerings (with a little room for modern) at a pretty consistent quality bar. With that efficiency comes “cooked to order” (a motto now cloned by copycats), the elimination of push carts (replacing it with checksheet) due to increasingly expensive real estate costs… this is another whole can of worms as to why HK historic/traditional food culture is disappearing so fast. When you have fresh/cooked to order, decent quality (debatable to a lot of folks these days), affordable price with high turnover, it’s a win win for the consumer and the business. Other chains over there have repeated this business model, though not at the same level of fame.

Speaking of checksheets…the super expensive but old school Luk Yu Tea House has checksheets (or so the dim sum menu written in Chinese the traditional way) and has been like that for a long time

(pic of Luk Yu checksheet menu lifted from Yelp)

So this has little or nothing to do with carts vs checksheets. Both existed for some time, and some coexisted at some point. I’m sure Luk Yu is not the only restaurant that did check sheet with this old style of printing/font/paper back in the day.

Over here (California), even with such fierce competition there is always a segment of the population that prefers value and quantity/output over higher price balanced with quality (part of it is human nature). So if a good number of the big names and players are offering similar level product (or even outsourcing the goods to an external dim sum factory, only to heat up the goods in house), with very minor differences, then the winner in the competition will have to offer the best value. Then there’s not much incentive to hire skilled dim sum makers or invest time in doing things right at the loss of efficiency and variety, when it will just upset the balance books in the end. Yes that can be chalked up to complacency, but these are far more severe symptoms, and people who continue to support these places enable them to get away with doing and offering less for less. This is almost like the impression Hong Kong cafes in the SGV give me, even if you only look at the breakfast menu…who can offer the most variety at the best price…they will all be decent in filling up stomach space and will taste ok, but that’s about it. How many versions of similar ham and egg sandwiches or macaroni in canned soup, a plate of plain cheung fun with the same quality as a Chinese supermarket (just microwaved) or spam & instant noodles with a generic broth can you handle?

Some say that they cannot tell the difference between a dim sum factory bought and in house heated dim sum item vs if it were made in house. And then there are those who say there are no differences whatsover if that dim sum factory sourced item were heated in bamboo steamers vs metal/tin steamers. So it’s not just business complacency, there’s a bit with the consumer as well.

It’s easy to copy trends, but it’s another to do them just as well. Anyone can try to make something fancy looking just to have it on the menu. It will draw in the crowds temporarily. People can be unforgiving, and then there are those who don’t know better.

THW would be considered a waste of stomach quota for me if I were to visit HK again. Nothing against them, it’s just that there are so many better options to hit up, even for something similar over there, whether one wants to splurge or not. They do make a good business school case study though (similar to Australian Dairy Company for efficiency).


#15

Well it’s kind of like baseball where some of us recall distinctions between modern era and the old time era when it comes to checksheets. Since dim sum carts didn’t come into vogue until the 1970s, pre-1970s dim sum had to be by definition off the menu or check sheet. However, in the modern era of dim sum menu trumps carts, particularly when you look at places like Hong Kong and Richmond B.C.

Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong, while better than the dim sum we get in SF or LA, is only marginally so, except for the crispy baked bbq pork buns which are transcendent. Without those buns, I can’t see Tim Ho Wan getting a Michelin star. Also can’t see the NY branch surviving without it, as the rest of the menu is fairly limited, and consistent with New York quality.


#16

That’s how I feel about dim sum generally.


#17

that sounds so potentially good as long as you don’t overcook the liver.


#18

For your info. I was told that Luk You updates their printed dim sum menu weekly. For example, when I visited earlier in May 2017, the date on the menu is different from the yelp picture dated Sept 2016. Also the price has increased by about 5% overall.


#19

As posted before, I went there once during a weekday last month and there was a 20 min wait. I sampled the Foie gras har gow, truffle siu mai plus lobster this and truffle that. Luxury ingredients incoporated into dim sum is not new in SGV. Sea Harbor has done it for several years. Except for these “luxury” items, their regular dim sum items are executed and priced competitively in the neighborhood of Top Island,NBC or China Red.


#20

Dim sum is not really something to fill up your stomachs up with.

More like a few items, a few pots of tea, and conversation with friends/families.

It is somehow morph into ordering a boatload of stuff, having high end ingredients, and dropping $$$. And now everyone has their heads in a cell phone.

People treat it now like a YOLO buffet. But really it is all about tea, conversation, and a few things to eat.

But I realize you have no fight in this.
I am kinda more disappointed that more people don’t visit these dim sum temples for dinner.


#21

based on my many visits to sea harbour, going by yourself and camping out for 2 hours while drinking tea and reading the paper is also acceptable.

I am kinda more disappointed that more people don’t visit these dim sum temples for dinner.

dim sum = affordable. dinners can rapidly become unaffordable, esp. at said temples.