I love dim sum, it’s easily one of my favorite food overall. So when you heard about a Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant, you get excited. But if that restaurant happens to be the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, you’ve got to be very, very excited indeed.
Tim Ho Wan, considered by many as the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, definitely caught my attention during my usual food research on a recent trip to Hong Kong and China.
Took me a while to find it (got out at the right station, but took the wrong exit. Bummer). When I did find it, however, I began to wonder whether all my effort was worthwhile. The place was very unassuming. A real hole in the wall packed with people outside it. I’ve read about how bad this place can be during busy hours, so I decided to come late at 8PM. Nobody eat dim sum at 8PM, I thought, especially in Hong Kong where dim sum is traditionally served as a part of their yum cha ritual. Well, I thought wrong 😦
There were at least 15 people waiting outside. When I finally got my number, guess what, the lady told me that I should come back at 9.30PM, “coincidentally” the restaurant’s last order. Meaning, once I go inside, I can’t ask for more shu mai or har gaw!
On another day, I might’ve cancelled my reservation knowing the fact that some of the items may not be available since it’s near closing time. I decided to go ahead, though, mainly because I had some unfinished business to take care of: finding a good pair of sneakers at the famous Fa Yuen St, known as the Sneaker Street 🙂
After finally found my kicks, I was ready to eat! But wait, I hadn’t ordered yet! A girl was nice enough to point out the menu sheet, a CHINESE menu sheet with no hint of English whatsoever. No pictures, nothing. I panicked, I had to hand the sheet over to the calling lady ASAP. Luckily enough, the girl who gave me a menu sheet earlier came to the rescue once more. Phew! Quite an adventure even before I actually stepped a foot into the restaurant.
The restaurant is small. In fact, I think it can only hold up to around 20 people. Yeah, that small.
First two orders: pork shu mai and har gow. A classic combination every dim sum joint must have. I always believe that these two dishes, particularly the latter, are the barometer of every dim sum restaurants. The shrimp must have a certain crunchiness that signifies freshness, the skin must be translucent and has the right thinness. Although I wasn’t totally overblown by the taste, both the shu mai and har gow clearly passed the test. Both were fresh and tender, although a little too bland for my liking.
Next two dishes are my personal favorite: steamed spareribs and chicken feet. Chicken feet is quite probably my favorite dim sum item, closely followed by har gow. The steamed spareribs were juicy and tender. You can really taste the black bean sauce on that spare ribs. It’s really good. The chicken feet was amazing. Easily one of the best chicken feet I have ever tasted. It’s quite big and has plenty of meat. The black sauce was tasty yet not too strong so that it didn’t overpower the meat. The balance was just spot on.
Lastly, the main attraction: fried (baked?) char siu bao! This is the restaurant’s signature dish that has everyone on the internet raving. I am not a big fan of char siu bao, simply because of the dough. When I eat dim sum, it’s all about the protein and fat, not carbs. But this dish is, quite simply, out of this world! Unlike most char siu bao out there, it has a crispy dough with a hint of caramel on each bite. It’s crunchy, sweet, and the char siu literally melts inside your mouth! I wished I ordered another portion of this amazing dish to go. Maybe next time!
Conclusion: Overall, this is a very good dim sum restaurant if you don’t mind the super long wait and location. I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to wait though, as there are many things to see and do on Nathan Street. Whether or not this restaurant deserves a Michelin star really depends on your own palate. Personally, I think it just deserves a Michelin star based on the above-average dim sum quality for a very low price. That amazing char siu bao clearly played a part on getting that precious honor. Will I ever go to that place again and wait for two hours? Definitely! Since I’d probably look for another pair of sneakers anyway 🙂
Overall score: 8 / 10