Tim Ho Wan – cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant
Tim Ho Wan is one of the latest restaurants in Hong Kong to be awarded with a Michelin star. And apparently the cheapest one too. For HK$60 (or US$8), one can leave with a belly full of delicious dim sum.
We arrived early on a weekday morning (being the tourists we were) 15 minutes before opening but were left out of their 1st seating which admitted around 30pax. Devastated as we were to be the 30th+31st person , we decided to have breakfast at a eatery few shops down the road to fill our stomachs first.
30 minutes later, we returned & waited another 10 minutes before being admitted by the manager guarding the entrance. She’s the no-nonsense sort that speaks in agitated tones & never shy to tell you off loudly if you whined about waiting but yet nice in her own little underrated ways. Every one wanted to be liked by her badly. She had that sort of power on you – you would too, if you held the doors to the world’s cheapest Michelin restaurant.
No one was miffed by that character, in fact spirits were high all around us. You could really feel the buzz (& hunger pangs) in the air as eager patrons stood outside the tiny cubicle-restaurant pondering out loud what to order, & sharing so-and-so reviews they had read about the restaurant.
The restaurant is like a coop literally with numerous patrons seated arm to arm beside their neighbours as servers balance steaming baskets & made their way across tight narrow aisles, avoiding backs & legs sticking out. But, what a convivial atmosphere to be having dim sum!
Chef Pui Gor was formerly from Four Seasons 3 Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant & his artistry can be seen evidently in the plate after plate of exquisite dim sum on our table.
Famed for his char siew bau, what striked me was the ingenious pastry shell of the buns. A typical char siew bo comes in a white & fluffy bread-like bun but Pui Gor has brilliantly married the bo lo bau & char siew bau into a unique bun slightly glazed & sugared on the outside. The texture of the shells were really beautiful – lightweight & flaky with the right note of crisp. One bite of the pastry & your tongue touches the first bits of hot caramelized, chewy pork pieces.
We were raring to go after tasting the buns & our first thought was that this would definitely not be our last visit.
The siew mai was steaming hot when it arrived. Nothing to shout about because I’m not a huge fan of minced pork but Tim Ho Wan’s version did justice to the classic.
The pork liver cheung fun was the innard-loving Boyfriend’s highlight. The boy would chomp anything made of liver & other exotic-looking parts of the pig. He’s the real wild eater – I’m the meek eater beside him on the dining table. Skin of the cheung fun was silky smooth & the liver has a bite to it.
Cheung funs are a popular breakfast snack across Asia. In Singapore, cheung funs are served plain, drizzled with a dash of black sweet sauce + sesame seeds. This is the old school (cheaper) variety which our moms have grown up eating. Those served at dim sum/Chinese restaurants come stuffed with char siew or prawns – I personally prefer the prawn version as the crunchiness of the prawns contrasts well with the silken skins. The 2nd variety is eaten in Malaysia as well & popular in Hong Kong.
The juicy beef meatballs were really extraordinary – infused with mandarin citrus & spring onion, the meatball was tender & very succulent. I loved the lingering taste of citrus that comes in between each bite of the meat.
The teochew fun gor had savoury meats & leek wrapped in a chewy skin which had the right thickness. Almost every table around us had a plate of fun gor on it – you can’t go wrong with that sort of assurance. This is one dish I would definitely have again the next time I return.
Let me just say that the fried beef dumplings were decent but nothing spectacular – at least none that I can remember. I would think you can probably skip this if you’re there but I remember loving the burnt skin at the top of the dumpling.
Service at this dainty place is top notch – brisk, efficient but friendly. The servers had given glowing reviews on the truffle pudding which was the “special” on the menu & we felt like we had to try it. Though the dim sum was good, we were not so sure about the sweets. During my research before the trip, the pudding was a item I’ve never seen being mentioned or talked about.
It turned out to our surprise, every bit as good as what the staff had mentioned! No cloying sweetness here, just a faint milky taste light on our tastebuds after all the dim sum.
Tiny bits of truffle can be found in each bite of the curd-pudding & the highlight was the centrepiece Chinese black truffle. Wonderfully fragrant & breathtaking! You’ve got to try this to love it, and love it you will – trust me! I ate this twice on my 2 visits to Tim Ho Wan.
Address: Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mongkok