Tim Ho Wan (添好運) has become a much talked about institution for dim sum in Hong Kong since it opened in Mong Kok a few years ago. At the moment there are five branches in Hong Kong (Mong Kok, Central, Sham Shui Po, Tai Kok Tsui and North Point) and a newly opened one in Singapore. Much of the hype is built around the Michelin star awarded to this “ordinary” street restaurant as opposed to the tendency of stars gathering around any restaurants fitting into at least two of the following categories in Hong Kong (or Asia in general for that matter): high-end, Western cuisine or hotel restaurant. The founder, Mak Kwai Pui used to be a dim sum chef at 3 Michelin star Lung King Heen in Four Seasons Hotel before moving on to found Tim Ho Wan. This might be the only place in the world where one can indulge in Michelin star dim sum without breaking the bank.
I went to Tim Ho Wan last year but memories of the dim sum are still surfacing occasionally when I pass by Chinatown or Bayswater in London. Although there are a few places offering good dim sum in London (Yauatcha, Princess Garden of Mayfair and Young Cheng to mention a few) it becomes difficult to justify the price after a visit at Tim Ho Wan or any other good dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong. Despite the distance to Hong Kong I feel that there is an opportunity cost attached to having dim sum in London.
Now on to the actual visit. We were 3 hungry souls heading to the Mongkok branch (also the original shop) this sunny afternoon. Upon arriving we saw a small crowd waiting to be seated in front of the restaurant. We got a queue number and were told that they would call out numbers as tables are cleared. Having read that it’s not uncommon to queue more than one hour we decided to walk around the area while waiting. 40 min later we returned and surprisingly they had seats for us! As expected we shared a table with other people a la Hong Kong style.
We ordered 10 dishes and they came out in a steady flow as we finished each basket.
These Har Gow ticked all boxes for how a good one should be for me. The skin was thin. Filling made of succulent prawns. Must be eaten while hot.
The Pork Liver Cheung Fun was one of my favourites. The rice vermicelli skin was thin and silky smooth which is the most important part of Cheung Fun. Then of course it needs support from good quality filling. In this case the filling was pork liver which was soft and not over cooked.
The Baked Bun with Char Siu (BBQ pork) was the best dish for me. The “shell” was slightly crispy and the filling of Char Siu was amazing. The meat was juicy and fragrance of the steam from the filling was intoxicating.
Siu Mai, a classic and always a must-order for dim sum meals. I could find no flaws in these. Good texture of meat. The mixture of pork and prawns not too fatty.
Beef Balls is what it sounds like. Steamed minced beef with flavouring mixed into it. What made these memorable was the pronounced flavour of Tangerine Peel. On its own Dried Tangerine Peel has a pungent bitterness but used in moderate amounts it can really lift a dish.
The sticky puff is almost always a dish I order when I go for dim sum. The main theme for this dish is texture. I think the “shell” is made from glutinous rice flour which gives it a bit of resistance when chewed on. I just like the combination of crispiness and stickiness.
The Chiu Chow dumplings didn’t leave any strong impressions but I remember there was nothing to complain about them. Again, this is a dish about texture. Usually the dumplings are filled with crunchy ingredients like peanuts and various fresh vegetables.
This dish seems fairly straight forward. In essence it’s a sponge cake. Done well it could be fragrant and fluffy but often in restaurants I find it a bit dull and “stuffy”. Here it was well done and I didn’t regret trying it.
The Glutinous Rice Wrap was an extra order at the end of the meal because we wanted to try one more dish. No major flaws to be found. It did well in filling us to the point of skipping dessert.
I was not let down by Tim Ho Wan despite my high expectations. I can certainly say that it won’t get as good as this paying around 70 HKD per head providing that you have the time and patience to wait for a seat. It’s good to see independent shops like this pop up to give the dim sum scene a fresh injection. Skill is a big part of good dim sum so keeping quality consistent across branches will be a challenge for Tim Ho Wan. It remains to see whether the growth of the restaurant will dilute its brand and quality. Until then it will be one of my stops every time I’m in Hong Kong.
For more photos from Tim Ho Wan, please visit my Flickr set.
Tim Ho Wan
Flat 8, Ground Floor, Phase 2
Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa St
廣華街2-20號翠園大樓2期地下8號舖, Hong Kong
Tel. (+852) 2332 2896
http://www.timhowan.com (website for the Singapore branch)