A Hong Kong Michelin-Starred Export Arrives in So Cal - Tim Ho Wan (Irvine) Grand Opening [Thoughts + Pics]

Thanks for the report!

For a majority of the photos…I am shaking my head. Presentation is off, and even the classics do not look evenly remotely done well. The chili sauce side that come with the pan fried turnip cake does not look good either… at least with Koi Palace or Dragon Beaux they give you some of their tasty house XO sauce on the side, and if they downgraded, at least it’s better looking stuff.

I think there is way too much hype with TWH worldwide. I walked past the Tokyo location at Hibiya Midtown last September and didn’t really care to try it there either, although I’m sure it would have likely been better.

If anything I think TWH’s glory days even in Hong Kong by real gourmet standards, have long passed, and they are just doing business catering to tourists and fad chasers who have no problems keeping their bottoms lined up.

Gotta give it to TWH though for starting the trend of having a well seasoned chef (ex Lung King Heen 3 Michelin star) doing at first smaller scale “made to order” (or cooked to order) high quality dim sum, smaller menu, neighborhood pricing, and building an efficient business model that prides itself on executing quickly and in quality, making it easily accessible for people of all walks of life. I’m guessing that vibe is no longer being felt now that it has become the money and fame making machine.

Hopefully Irvine’s location will work out the kinks. In the meantime I’d rather eat at a Din Tai Fung branch than deal with this madness…


If only you tasted the pre order authentic HK/Shunde style versions of shrimp toast executed by ex Yum’s bistro’s Chef Yum…legendary. Maybe the ex and retired chef of Embassy Kitchen knew how to make it too.

But true, everywhere else in California, don’t bother.

Thanks @attran99. :slight_smile: If the crowds die down and you were in Irvine and felt like Dim Sum, then, sure Tim Ho Wan will suffice. Depending on how much it can improve, it’s probably the best option for that area, but since you also make it out to the San Gabriel Valley, the options there are better, cheaper, and less of a wait. Unless you wanted to try the Baked BBQ Pork Buns.

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@Chowseeker1999 Thanks for the review! I just wanna note two things looking at your pictures along with Yelp’s.

  • The steaming of the har gow looks excellent compared to places like Dragon Beaux (consistently oversteams their dumplings looking at Yelp pictures) , Elite, or Sea Harbour (best of the 3 in terms of steamed items).

  • The sticky rice itself at THW also looks excellent where you can see the individual grains rather than the soft and gooey mess that you get in all SGV dim sum joints. Since the rice themselves are always oversteamed at the places you frequent, I suspect that this is why you might think that the rice at THW are dry-ish.

Here are the same items I had at Sea Harbour this past weekend to demonstrate my point:

Still good but not steamed as well as the ones you had at THW

Gooey mess which negatively affects the texture of the rice


Hi @moonboy403,

Thanks for your thoughts. Definitely a good eye on the skin itself. :slight_smile: Oh for sure Dragon Beaux’s weakness is their Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings). We’ve been there 5 times now and 3 of the times were oversteamed, but 2 times were perfectly cooked (and tasted better than Tim Ho Wan’s). In terms of actual flavor with the Shrimp? Tim Ho Wan’s version tasted pretty much the same / similar to what it’s like at Elite or Sea Harbour as well.

The Sticky Rice with Lotus Leaf: The filling is overcooked. I think I can tell when Chicken is dry and overcooked (and that Chicken was so dry in Tim Ho Wan’s Sticky Rice dish; we haven’t had Chicken that dried out and overcooked since I can remember). The Pork Slices (an odd addition) was also dryish and didn’t really add anything except a sliced textural contrast. The actual rice itself did feel dryer than most renditions we’ve tried, but that could be as you point out the result of everywhere else being oversteamed perhaps.

It still doesn’t explain why the actual filling inside (all of it) was as dry and chewy as it was compared to every single other rendition we’ve had over the years. (It was terrible.)

So in the end, nah, I’m still not driving 2.5 - 3 hours round trip and waiting another 2+ hours for this Dim Sum. When there’s no wait? It’s worth a visit if I was in the area and wanting Dim Sum of course. :slight_smile:

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Yup. I was only talking about the rice itself and not the fillings.

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Hi @beefnoguy,

Thanks for the thoughts on other THW branches and the evolution of this restaurant. I was definitely surprised to learn it now has over 40+ branches around the world; they certainly have found success (similar to Din Tai Fung, or to a lesser extent locally, Sugarfish).

The sad part is, with the sheer # of people waiting in line, you would’ve thought this was the arrival of the greatest food on the planet or something (it wasn’t). We’ll see how the lines / hype / wait times go over the coming months.

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Same thing when Krispy Kreme came to town. Or when Sugarfish debuted in NYC.


As I recall when they opened in Manhattan, the wait continued to be like 3 hours for a few months. By the time I got there a year later it was half empty.

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The first time I had a Krispy Kreme, it was perhaps slightly after the initial hype had died down (while I was in college; they had opened an outpost literally right across the walkway from where I lived). I’m not a donut person, but I do recall thinking after my first bite, “Wow, this is MARVELOUS. Why is this so much better than all other donuts I’ve ever tried???” Hee, hee. :slight_smile:

Back on-topic…


It’s still packed all the time!!! 2hr waits on weekday evenings, same goes for Kazu Nori. And they’re opening a new outlet. All as I predicted a couple years ago :wink:. NYC is sorely lacking decent mid priced sushi options.

I predict this initial frenzy at THW will fade if they don’t up their game. Especially in SoCal where there are many more alternatives. Case in point - NYC. It’s already faded in a city lacking good dim sum options and a less discerning clientele. Sugarfish at least does a decent job with their concept. THW really can’t keep coasting on their 1* reputation on that sole branch in HK. Emperor with no clothes…


they need a Kazu Nori in Burbank/Studio City so bad. Sugarfish is packed to the gills all the time, Kazu Nori would be an ATM

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I’m in total admiration of their business model.


No way 40+ restaurants are going to be very good. Question: what was it that earned the original a Michelin*?

No idea whether THW but some French dude by the name of Joel Robuchon didn’t do too shabby with 20+ restaurants worldwide. Another French bum Alain Ducasse isn’t doing too terribly either with 30+.

Pure speculation on my part, but Michelin had been trying to be more inclusive and paid special attention toward local specialties (reads dim sum, Canto BBQ, and wonton noodle in Hong Kong), so they broke out of their mold and awarded one star to cheaper and less deserving places.

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Well then. When you talk about guys like that…

But this sounds like the equivalent of putting a few names in a hat and blindly picking one. Kinda’ lame? But you gotta’ hand it to the guy. He built an empire off of one “very good” bun and a lucky Michelin*. This is reminding me of Mr. Cronut, minus the star.

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And he was the Executive Chef of the *** Lung King Heen before he started THW.


The original owner/dim sum chef of THW hailed from Lung King Heen. He headed the dim sum service there and started off the debut Michelin Guide at 3 Michelin stars. Anyway, he left Lung King Heen and wanted to do a neighborhood dim sum place while providing quality dim sum at low prices and that’s how everything started.


Mak Kwai Pui was the head dim sum chef and wasn’t the executive chef (Chan Yan Tak is the EC).

…and the rest is history.

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