With a history that includes a location hailed as one of the most affordable places to eat a Michelin rated meal, it’s no wonder that Tim Ho Wan opened to a decent amount of fanfare and anticipation. Located in the Royal Hawaiian Center (3rd floor), the newly opened dim sum restaurant promises delicious, made-to-order dim sum. Judy and I decided to take a chance on the line today to grab a late lunch.

We arrived to the restaurant at 1:00pm and were informed of a 30-60 minute wait. No problem; we had come prepared. We were provided a pager that works throughout the shopping center. Most of the seating by the restaurant was taken, so we soon found ourselves on the 2nd floor at some tables overlooking the courtyard. About 45 minutes later our buzzer goes off and we head back up.

In comes Strike 1. We wait at the hostess stand where there is some confusion. They look at our pager number and indicate to us that they had not called our number yet. We both look at them and stated firmly that, yes, it did indeed buzz. Another hostess then comes by and looks at our pager number, then at their wait list. She then tells that she had “crossed our number” off the list. That doesn’t make sense at all. Why would you cross my number off your list when I still had physical possession of the pager? None of this made sense to anyone, so they quickly apologize and assure us we will have the next open table.

After being seated it was time for Strike 2. The table was not properly wiped (my side was very wet). Cleanliness aside we were very disappointed to see a good portion of the menu (about 15% of the items) was not yet available. It’s been 3 weeks since the restaurant grand opened and the items that were unavailable didn’t appear to have any special or exotic ingredients in them (look fun, sticky mochi rice, etc). I was disappointed to have waited just to find that a 2 out of the 5 things we wanted to try were not available.

The baked BBQ pork bun was the only standout dish we had

Thankfully one of Tim Ho Wan’s signature items, the baked BBQ pork buns, were available to order. These were quite good, with a nice flaky texture and savory filling. Sadly the rest of the food we had ordered was just mediocre. Nothing was bad, it more that nothing was particularly good. The lackluster food was Strike 3.

The Hong Kong location of Tim Ho Wan would be a bargain price point compared to other “Michelin” rated restaurants. But when you compare the Hawaii location’s price against other local options it’s actually on the more expensive side (also Tim Ho Wan charges for tea, it is not complimentary). The Tim Ho Wan here in Hawaii averages $5/order and, other than the baked pork buns, offers just average flavors.

All things considered – the bevy of other options, the long wait, and the rocky service – I won’t be coming back to Tim Ho Wan anytime soon.

Tim Ho Wan
Royal Hawaiian Center, 3rd Floor