If you Google for dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan (添好运点心专门店) would surely come out tops. One of the reasons contributing to Tim Ho Wan’s fame is the fact that this dim sum joint at Mong Kok is said to be the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world.
The kitchen is backed by Mak Pui Gor, the highly renowned ex-dim sum chef of Lung King Heen at Four Seasons Hotel. His decision to quit his former job to follow his dream of managing his very own restaurant is good news to everyone, as the restaurant aims to serve quality food at friendly prices.
However, there is a huge drawback. Due to their immense popularity and the shop’s tiny size, waiting time is super long. Last time customers used to queue outside the restaurant for hours before getting a seat. This seem to have irked the neighboring shops hence a signboard reminding customers to stand ‘ar‘ one side as not to ‘black‘ the shops next doors.
In order to eliminate the long queues, they have recently implemented a numbering system. A total of 130 numbers would be distributed every morning, usable as long as you return by 3pm. There is another distribution after 3pm but I don’t know how many they are giving out.
FYI, We were here at 10.30am, took our number (40+ ish), waited for an hour or so then decided to eat something else first elsewhere before returning an hour later. For those who are here in large groups you are in bad luck because most probably you will be directed to their branch at Sham Shui Po where there is usually no waiting required. But! The reviews about the SSP branch has been bad so better stick to the main branch here.
This is the size of of the entire restaurant including the kitchen at the background. With about 10 tables or so, it can only accommodate a maximum of 30 customers at any time. The tables are so close to each other that you will be sitting literally elbow-to-elbow. But as a consolation, the food is worthy of the wait and the service is genuinely warm and friendly (remember this is HK!), something I find rare and surprising considering their big fame and all.
I have to commend on the staff’s patience especially the lady who assigns numbers to customers outside the restaurant. Can you imagine how many questions like “When is my turn?”, “What number is it now?” “How long more do I have to wait” are thrown at her daily? Yet she is still able to handle it as graceful as she could. I am pretty sure I would have snapped if it was me.
Paper menu on the table. All dim sum are prepared to order for optimum freshness hence taking more time to arrive.
Now about the food, let me just say that Tim Ho Wan’s dim sum is seriously delicious. And now that I have tasted the authentic HK dim sum, I can finally gauge the standards of dim sum better. I don’t mean to belittle our local dim sum or anything, but the difference between HK’s and ours are just too huge that it makes Ipoh’s Foh San look and taste amateurish in comparison. 鲜虾烧卖皇 (Fresh Shrimp Siu Mai) @ $20 made according the ratio of 70% shrimp and 30% pork, this has gotta be the best Siu Mai ever.
酥皮叉烧包 (Crispy Skin Baked Char Siew Bao) @ $14 is Tim Ho Wan’s signature dim sum here, which also sparked many other dim sum restaurants to include the same into their menu. While they might be able to replicate the shape and look, they can never replicate the same taste.
Anyway, these buns are baked instead of being steamed resulting in a crispy and crumbly pastry like a polo bun’s. Besides the buns’ interesting texture, the tastiness also lies in the BBQ pork filling. Not surprisingly, the meat is incredibly tender and coated in the perfect BBQ sauce, but it is that unique honey flavor that really takes the cake for me. I am not boasting when I say this char siew bao here is the best I ever tried. You will know it in just one bite.
晶莹鲜虾饺 (Har Gao) @ $20. The skin is thin yet does not break easily and the sea-fresh shrimps are of satisfactory size with a crunchy bite. There is simply nothing to complain about these masterpieces.
Honestly I have never thought highly of Teochew dumplings (潮州蒸粉果) That is until I tried Tim Ho Wan’s, which also convinced me that I have been eating the wrong ones all this while. The chewy but delectable skin is filled with a mixture of chopped peanuts, chives, ground pork and dried shrimp. Priced at only $10, this is the cheapest dim sum on the menu.
According to Mak in an article interview, the thing that he prided himself in the most is his signature Fried Radish Cake (煎腊味萝白糕) It took him years to find the perfect ratio of rice flour, shredded radish and water in creating the perfect radish cake. After trying it, all I can say is that his effort was not wasted. It differs from the normal radish cake by having a very flaky texture after being pan fried, just like hash brown.
Steamed Beef Balls with Sundried Orange Peel (陈皮牛肉球) @ $12. The beef balls tasted more like fish balls to me and I find the orange peels’ slightly too overpowering.
Pork Liver Cheong Fun (黄沙朱润肠) @ $15. We don’t usually take pork liver but seeing it is a popular item here, we ordered it anyway just for trying sake. I have no comment on the pork liver but the silky smooth rice rolls in thick soya sauce are quite the something. If you like to eat pork liver I am sure you will enjoy this more than me.
To tell you the truth, I actually wanted to skip Tim Ho Wan after knowing that queuing is unavoidable and worried that it might turn out to be a hype. And mind you the wait is not short and could easily take at least two hours. Luckily I gave in to ‘peer pressure’ and joined the queue or else my dim sum experience in HK would have been mediocre at best. The queue is no doubt frustrating but I would gladly do it again because the food is really that worthy of anticipation.Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists
Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2,
2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok