When acclaimed international dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan – best known as the one-time cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world when its original Hong Kong location was anointed the honor back in 2009 – opened an outpost in New York City last week, the brand’s first-ever US restaurant was expected to be busy. The hours are limited, and no reservations are accepted. But apparently the waits have been so crazy, they may be a bigger story than the food itself.
Before the doors even opened at 10am on Friday morning, Gothamist pegged the number of people waiting in line at “nearly 100” – a number guaranteeing that at least some people hoping to get into the 60-seat restaurant would be stuck out in weather that one Instagrammer said was about 20 degrees.
But after the doors officially opened for business, things apparently got even worse – possibly because people weren’t exactly pining for dim sum at 10am. On Saturday, PIX11 News wrote up the restaurant and spoke to one guy who stood in line for half a workday. “We waited about four hours,” he told the local TV station, before adding, “It is still worth it.”
Meanwhile, a dim sum-loving critic hoping to cover the new restaurant for Eater struggled to get in the door on two separate tries. Robert Sietsema swung by at 1:30pm on Friday – a full 90 minutes before the end of lunch service – only to discover a sign stating, “We’ve closed the kitchen for the afternoon and aren’t allowing anyone else in.” His Saturday attempt was even sadder. After waiting a little less than an hour, “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,” wrote Sietsema. “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.”
Tim Ho Wan’s primary claim to fame is Michelin-star quality food at fast food prices. But though the cost may be similar a cheap burger joint, the speed of the New York City location couldn’t be more of the opposite.