Dim Sum lovers rejoice: Tim Ho Wan, the self-described “world’s most inexpensive awarded dim sum restaurant,” is opening a new location right here in Irvine. The restaurant, which will be part of the Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center, has been soft opened with limited hours since May 8, and is planning to have its grand opening on May 18. It will be the chain’s first location in California.
“Dumpling folding is an art, and Tim Ho Wan is the perfect place for an introduction to this,” says Tim Ho Wan Director of Operations Jeremy Liberman. “Our dim sum specialists create authentic Hong Kong-style dim sum that is made-to-order using fresh ingredients. Dim sum traditionally consists of lots of bite-sized and shareable plates. It’s a fast-paced, lively and modern dim sum-eating experience.”
Tim Ho Wan was first founded in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district in 2009. “Cofounders and dim sum masters Mak Kwai Pui and Leung Fai Keung first met as head chefs in Hong Kong in the early 2000s,” says Liberman. “Bonding over their love for true noodle artistry, the two left their respective positions to open a restaurant of their own. Within a year of opening, it earned one Michelin star and a cult following for being the ‘world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant’ at the time.”
Tim Ho Wan describes their philosophy as made to order dishes with the freshest ingredients. A decade after their first Hong Kong location opened, Tim Ho Wan now operates 46 different locations in 9 different countries, opening its first North American location in December 2016 in New York’s East Village.
So what brings the famous chain to Irvine? “Since the 1970s, Irvine has had a vibrant, growing and diverse population,” says Liberman. “This unique diversity, coupled with excellent educational opportunities, a growing tech sector and, of course, a healthy dining and retail culture make Tim Ho Wan accessible to the residents of both Irvine and the surrounding communities. We know the Irvine community will be thrilled to welcome Tim Ho Wan to its neighborhood. We believe there is a dim sum niche to fill in Irvine, as many often travel elsewhere to enjoy authentic and high-quality dim sum. We’re going to change that.”
Irvine customers will also be able to enjoy dishes that aren’t available at any other location. At each Tim Ho Wan location a “Regional Specialty” dish unique to that location is offered. Liberman says that two menu items exclusive to the Irvine location will be revealed at the restaurant’s grand opening. Tim Ho Wan Irvine will also be the first U.S. location to offer a takeout window.
Aside from the mystery exclusive dishes, Tim Ho Wan Irvine will of course offer customers the same delicious dishes that people love all around the world. “Tim Ho Wan is known for our world-famous BBQ Pork Buns, along with other specialties like Steamed Rice Rolls, Pan Fried Turnip Cake and Steamed Egg Cake,” says Liberman. “Traditionally, BBQ Pork Buns are served in a soft fluffy dough, however, we take ours to the next level with crumbly, flaky dough that’s the perfect mix of sweet and savory for a melt-in-your-mouth combination.”
While Tim Ho Wan may have started in Hong Kong, flavor and delectable food is universal, which is something that Liberman has observed when comparing American customers to Asian ones. “Our experience is that our American Tim Ho Wan guests are very similar to our guests in Asian countries. No matter where in the world we introduce our authentic style of dim sum, we have found the public response to be equally enthusiastic,” says Liberman. “We have actually found the American market has a great interest in our brand because it is authentically from Hong Kong with a more modern, high-paced and urban feel than some traditional dim sum houses. Of course our signature BBQ Pork Buns lead the way with instant recognition.”
That being said, there are still slight taste preferences that are more common in the U.S. “There are subtle differences in what our [American] guests order. For example, we sell more braised chicken feet in some parts of Asia than we do in the U.S., but Americans are very adventurous. We’re learning if it tastes good, the market will support it, and the American market has lots of good taste. We can’t wait to get started in Irvine!”
With the only Tim Ho Wan in the entire state of California, Irvine is certainly lucky to welcome the dim sum chain to its city. Dim sum lovers have been known to travel far and wide to taste Tim Ho Wan’s dishes, but for Irvine ones, they now have this affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in their backyard. As Liberman explains, “Dim sum literally translates to ‘to touch your heart.’ That’s exactly what our food does – it touches your heart with each bite you take.”
Tim Ho Wan
Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center
2700 Alton Parkway, Suite 127-131
Irvine, California 92606