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Tim Ho Wan’s Michelin-Level Dim Sum Is Worth the Drive to Irvine, Says LA Times

Plus, more Georgian deliciousness in Glendale

A platter of Dim Sum from Tim Ho Wan in Irvine.
Tim Ho Wan
Tim Ho Wan
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Just about everyone is excited to have Tim Ho Wan in Southern California. Long lines and fast service have defined this new strip mall hit down in Irvine, and now the LA Times is weighing in with a big new review of the place.

Amy Scattergood, sitting in for Patricia Escárcega while she’s out, says that this stateside location of Tim Ho Wan doesn’t quite mirror the fun and energy of the area’s best dim sum houses, but that’s hardly the point. The massive company now spans some 50 locations from New York City to Hawaii to the Hong Kong mainstay outposts, and leans on the fact that it holds a Michelin star for its original location.

Still, despite “the ambiance at our Tim Ho Wan [being] more Cinnabon than banquet hall,” Scattergood comes away somewhat impressed:

And if the conceit — whether operating principle or tire company Platonic ideal — is dim sum in a well-trafficked pedestrian zone, with fast service, a cheap check and well-executed food, then Tim Ho Wan’s Irvine branch is an excellent pit stop.

And while “Irvine’s version is not the dim sum grail that you might expect” — just ask OC Weekly — there are still more than a few satisfying bites, particularly on the steamed and non-fried side of the menu. Rice rolls are “properly addictive,” while “turnip cakes are torqued with dried shrimp,” for example. In all, Irvine’s Tim Ho Wan is a reliable spot for dim sum that toes the line between being inexpensive, being accessible, and being delicious, says the Times.

A sunny dining room at Tim Ho Wan in Irvine.
Tim Ho Wan
Wonho Frank Lee

Meanwhile, co-critic Bill Addison meandered back to Glendale, the site of a previous review and at least one Persian food crawl. While there, he managed to spot a tucked-away Georgian restaurant worth writing up called Havlabar, which seems to offer some of the most intriguing Armenian and Georgian dishes in that city.

The unassuming space comes with a helpful menu littered with full-color dish photos, but just know that at Havlabar the basics really hold up. That includes the big, knotty khinkali Georgian dumplings, which “rival the meaty exemplars at nearby competitor Khinkali House.”

And then there is “the scene-stealer:”

Sausage-shaped, sulgani-filled khachapuri grilled on skewers; they come as a duo, bronzed and speckled, rolled thin enough that their cylindrical crusts become layered and flaky. Break them in half and the cheese, soft but not entirely molten, pulls in long, fairy-tale strands.

Addison adds: “On the Armenian side, I’m particularly keen on dolmas, the grape leaves bundling a fluffy mixture of oniony ground beef and pork gently bulked with flecks of rice.” Best to seek this place out soon, even if you have to look hard for it in the warrens of strip mall restaurant that populate Glendale already.

Tim Ho Wan. 2700 Alton Parkway #127, Irvine, CA.

Havlabar. 1143 E. Broadway, Glendale, CA.