I never imagined that the choice of drink I would be offered to accompany my first Michelin-star restaurant meal, would be Sprite or Coke served in a can, slightly warm. But to be fair, Tim Ho Wan, a noisy, ordinary looking dim sum restaurant, is a little o the radar when compared with other Michelin-pedigree eateries. This small, packed, hole-in-the-wall dim-sum eatery, in a rather nondescript street in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district, is one of the hottest meal tickets in town since being dubbed the world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant.
Tim Ho Wan, which means “add good luck”, was started by chef Mak Pui Gor, who previously worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in the three-starred restaurant Lung King Heen - the only Chinese restaurant in the world to receive three Michelin stars. He branched out on his own to serve his superb dim sum at rock bottom prices, bringing a refreshing accessibility to Michelin-star eating.
We arrive early on a humid Hong Kong day and already there’s a crowd milling out front, clutching numbered coupons to lunch like winning lottery tickets. Some hungry customers press their noses up to the steamy glass windows, almost willing diners to move on. The wait time isn’t too bad– 20-30 minutes tops – but at peak times queuing to get a prized table can take more than two hours. The first thing to arrive at our laminated table is the famed crispy char sui bao served three to a plate. It’s hot, with a crispy golden casing, and inside is a delectable sweet pork flling which literally melts in the mouth. The waitress tells us that one diner was so enamoured of the pork buns he ate a staggering 15 in one sitting, and I later heard they sell close to 750 of these popular buns each day. Other than the char sui bao, the deer tendon is apparently famous for adventurous eaters, while the steamed egg cake is legendary. Most dishes cost less than $2.
Alternatively, if you want to try some of Hong Kong’s best traditional Cantonese food – still at reasonable prices - be sure to check out the one-starred Tim’s Kitchen (no connection to Tim Ho Wan).
Try the 1000-day-old eggs preserved in lime and served with pickled ginger, before moving on to crab claw with melon, sautéed garoupa fillet with choy sum, and the moreish crispy skinned pork belly. Meanwhile, the two-starred Bo Innovation – which describes its food as ‘X-treme modern Chinese cuisine’ - will please fans of molecular gastronomy. Try rock-star chef Alvin Leung’s 14-course table menu in the chic surrounds.
THE ESSENTIALS Tim Ho Wan: Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, Tel +852 2332 2896 & Tim Ho Wan II: 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po. Tel: +852 9363 6054 Tim’s Kitchen: 93 Jervois Street, Sheung 29 Wan. Tel + 852?2543 5919, open daily 12 pm -10:30 pm, www.timskitchen.com.hk. BO Innovation: Shop 13, 2/F J Residence, 60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai. Tel: + 8522850 8371, open daily noon to midnight, www.boinnovation.com