Friday, February 3, 2012

Restaurant Review: Tim Ho Wan 添好運

Location: Hong Kong Station, Central
Type of food: Cantonese/dim sum
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

These days the surest way for a restaurant to break out of the pack is to earn a Michelin star. That’s exactly what happened to Tim Ho Wan (添好運), a hole-in-the-wall dim sum parlor in Mongkok that rose to stardom after being coined the “the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant.” With the catchy title comes good business. And business has been so good that they opened two more locations, one in Sham Shui Po and the other at the basement level of the IFC Mall just one floor above the Airport Express Hong Kong Station. Thanks to the Michelin Guide, Tim Ho Wan has become more than a restaurant. It is now a tourist attraction for both locals and visitors eager to brag about their Michelin experience on Facebook.

Tim Ho Wan at Hong Kong Station
(lady in the center brought her own stool)

Not a day goes by without a large crowd of people congregating in front of the modest restaurant at Hong Kong Station. Bankers and construction workers, tourists and policemen are willing to wait up to an hour for a table, some even bring their own stools. Those of us who work at the nearby office towers do it in style: we place our orders by phone and send a junior to pick up the huge stacks of Styrofoam boxes. Nearby restaurants too benefit from the “Michelin Effect,” as spill-over lunch crowds settle for dumplings from Overseas Dragon (四海遊龍) next door or a Subway sandwich across the aisle.

The best dishes at Tim Ho Wan are their famous pork buns with a sweet crust and siu mai (燒賣) made with a generous helping of Chinese mushrooms. Although prices are good (dim sum prices range from $12 to $25), the menu is limited compared to a regular dim sum restaurant. Most dishes – other than the two I mentioned above – taste rather ordinary. It makes you wonder what criteria the Michelin Guide had used to single out this particular dim sum restaurant for a star and not the others. I seriously doubt if any of the French "inspectors" can even name what's inside a chiu chow fun gwo (潮州粉果).

The signature roast pork buns

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