Dim Sum Restaurant – Tim Ho Wan, the World’s Cheapest Michelin-starred Restaurant
I first heard about Tim Ho Wan, a dim sum restaurant in Hong Kongwhen Chef Mak Kwai Pui came to dine at our place a few months back. As I had already made plans for a holiday trip to Hong Kong, I began to find out more about this dim sum restaurant to see if it’s worth a special trip there.
Tim Ho wan is located in between Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok, both busy districts. It’s just a stone throw away from ‘Ladies Market’, a popular street market where you can get almost anything for a good bargain; from pretty trinkets to clothes and “branded’’ goods. If you’re a lady and you like a good bargain, ‘Ladies Market’ is a heaven for you.
The reviews I read about this dim sum restaurant were sparkling; the food is not only superb, but also serves great value for money. In fact, Tim Ho Wan gained reputation as the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.
Michelin stars are the ultimate accolades awarded in the gastronomy world and the Michelin Red Guide is just like the bible to gourmets around the world. One star indicates a “very good cuisine in its category”, a two-star ranking represents “excellent cuisine, worth a detour,” and three stars are awarded to restaurants offering “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. It’s such a big deal that inFrance, a chef was known to commit suicide over the lost of a star.
The only drawbacks to this dim sum restaurant are the horror stories of long waiting; an hour or two for a table is not unusual. Being a typical ‘kiasu’ Singaporean, to me, it only meant good things are waiting at the other end. Therefore, this only steeled my resolve to dine at this dim sum restaurant. Thus, a visit to Tim Ho Wan was prioritised top into one of my to-do list in Hong Kong.
Dim Sum Restaurant – Dining at Tim Ho Wan
A simple tip to judge if a restaurant is good is to see if the locals are also dining there. There are countless of restaurants surrounded by huge hype. But wait till you get there, all the customers are tourists. The food is just average and way too pricey; more for the touristy kind. It’s all cheap marketing tactics targeting the misguided.
Not so for Tim Ho Wan. Long queues were forming outside the dim sum restaurant, with a good mixture of both locals and tourists.
I thought to myself, “The food must be damn good.”
Tim Ho Wan is not your typical Michelin-starred restaurant; you don’t call in to reserve a seat. You will not find service synonymous with a Michelin-starred restaurant, whereby the host invites you warmly into the restaurant and make sure you are nice and comfortable.
The only way inside the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant is to take a queue number and stand in line for a long time. At this dim sum joint, service is ruthless but efficient. In fact, the lady standing outside the dim sum restaurant will ignore you unless you go up to her and ask for a queue number.
She scribbled my queue number on the order chit.
“Come back in an hour’s time.”
That was my reservation.
I guard my order chit jealously like a treasure. Woe betides me if I somehow lose it. We went to hang around Ladies’ Market as it is just a short five minutes walk away.
We returned in forty-five minutes and our number was already called. There’s nothing to worry about as she slotted us next-in-line. A lady leaving the restaurant just as we were about to enter told me that the crispy BBQ pork bun is “shiok”, a definite must-try.
The dim sum restaurant can seat around 20-30 people and was jam-packed with hungry eaters having their dim sum fix. I ordered as much as what I thought we could finish and waited eagerly for the dishes to arrive.
First to arrive was their signature Baked Bun with BBQ Pork. The texture of the pastry is somewhat similar to the polo bun. It was indeed “die-die must try” with the sweet sauce complimenting the bun very well. My only complain was there could be more of that awesome BBQ pork filling.
Next to come is my dim sum favourite; Fresh Shrimp Dumplings. You can judge the chefs’ skills simply by this dish. The dough should be thin and translucent but yet strong enough to hold the fillings without breaking. On these criteria, the chefs pass with flying colours. The shrimps were fresh and well-cooked; however I would prefer the seasoning to be slightly stronger.
The Pork Dumplings with Shrimps is another of my dim sum favourite. These dumplings were totally spot-on. The filling was fresh with a slight bounce to it.
Beancurd Skin Roll with Shrimp was nice. The beancurd skin was deep-fried till crispy, while the filling of shrimps was nicely-cooked with julienned leeks and scallions adding fragrance and texture to it.
What more can I say? Tender and flavourful Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce.
This dish was a let-down for me. The crust of this Deep-fried Meat Dumpling was crisp and chewy, but it was barely empty inside. The filling of minced pork inside was almost non-existent. Maybe the chefs were so busy till they’d forgotten the stuffing. Ha-ha.
I find the Beef balls with Beancurd Skin a revelation; they’re so damn bouncy you could even play ping-pong with it. It’s an okay dish except that they’re too bouncy for my liking.
Vermicelli Roll with BBQ Pork is very delicate and almost melt-in-the-mouth. The sauce is balance and compliments the dish very well. My only issue is that there’s too little of that succulent BBQ pork stuffing in it.
Pan-fried Radish Cake was one of the best I had ever eaten. It’s so light and fragile that it disintegrates the moment it entered my mouth. As a bonus, there are bits of fresh radish providing crunch. Absolutely delicious.
As the weather was warm outside, we ordered a cold dessert. Wolfberries and Osmanthus Flower Jelly is a very refreshing dessert which is not too sweet. A perfect end to the meal.
Dim Sum Restaurant – My Review of Tim Ho Wan
Overall we had a fantastic Michelin-starred dining experience at coffeshop prices. The bill came up to about $25 for the two of us. It was a great steal given the high-quality food. I would highly recommend Tim Ho Wan for dim sum if you happen to drop by Hong Kong.
I would definitely pay a visit to this dim sum restaurant again on my next visit to thePearlof the Orient. For those who like to give this dim sum restaurant a try, I’d attached a map so you can find your way around. Nearest MTR will be the Yau Ma Tei or Mongkok station. It’s open from 10 in the morning till 10 at night.
A visit to Hong Kong would surely be incomplete without a trip to Tim Ho Wan dim sum restaurant.