Mak Kwai-pui, former chef of a three Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong, decided to open up with his partner chef Leung Fai Keung a 20-seat dim sum restaurant in Mongkok, a very busy neighborhood in Hong Kong – this restaurant was Tim Ho Wan.
Tim Ho Wan earned a Michelin star in 2010 and has opened several branches in Hong Kong and overseas. Although not all the restaurants have a star, Tim Ho Wan became well-known as the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.
The one that opened in New York in December 2016 in East Village does not have a Michelin star but, nevertheless, the wait for dinner was about three hours during the first few months after its opening. Is it worth that kind of wait? I don’t think so. Now it’s been reduced to an hour and a half. The waiting is not unpleasant though as you can go for a walk and the host calls you when the table is ready. Not sure it would be as enjoyable with the temperatures we had last week with the “bomb cyclone”!
Inside the restaurant, the décor is basic; the floor is made of concrete, not particularly clean especially near the restrooms, which happened to also be the way out for the trash. The tables and chairs are in wood veneer and the walls are painted white. The back room has Chinese golden décor on the wall and a suspended ceiling – it felt cozier.
Sticky rice in lotus leaf
At the entrance, you can see the open kitchen with all the bamboo recipients for the dim sum and the cooks preparing the dishes. I was more than ready to try the famously cheapest Michelin-starred dim sum!
We were kindly seated at our table in the main room by the host who handed us a list of the dishes and a pencil to mark our orders. The placemat is also the menu, everything you can eat is illustrated: 27 dishes and two desserts. We were two so we tried as many dishes as possible to have a wide idea of what the restaurant offers.
We received our dishes in no specific order. We started with the sticky rice in lotus leaf – great presentation and delicious. The rice comes indeed in a lotus leaf and the sticky rice wraps a delicious preparation of pork stew.
Next came along the steamed rice with chicken and shiitake mushrooms, tasty and the chicken was very tender.
The steamed dumplings with shrimp and chives and the deep fried eggplant with shrimp followed just after. I would’ve expected them first but I suppose the kitchen at Tim Ho Wan doesn’t follow an appetizer/entrée order. These dishes were excellent, the dumplings were quite sticky, and the eggplants melted in the mouth. Both had generous portions of shrimps.
The steamed rice roll with shrimp and Chinese chives was not among our favorites, the flavor was bland. It was very slippery and difficult to grab with the chopsticks. We almost needed to shovel it in our mouth.
We couldn’t leave the restaurant without ordering the staple of the Tim Ho Wan restaurants: the baked BBQ buns. We had to wait for a while because they were preparing a new batch in the kitchen. They arrived fresh and hot. It was definitely worth the wait! They were delicious, a combination of sweet and salty. I could not help but take a replica of a picture I’ve seen on Instagram. Love it!
Tim Ho Wan
85 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003
Open every day 10AM – 10PM