Tim Ho Wan is the only restaurant that was originally in our itinerary. Having been awarded a Michellin star last year, this is one of those restaurants that just has to be in anyone’s “to try” list. The exact same reason why despite usually steering clear of Chinese cuisine, I dived right in! I just have to see what all the fuss was about.
And what a fuss it was! We arrived at this dingy street (Kwong Wah, I think it’s called) in Mongkok to find about a score of hungry customers waiting outside Tim Ho Wan’s modest bistro. We had to wait 2 hours before we were seated, although we were told to wait only an hour. We didn’t mind, really (in spite of hearing the cursing of my tummy through the layers of my clothes) – the look on the people’s faces through the restaurant’s windows was enough to keep us waiting. I remember a particular American pair with happy, solved faces (straight out of a commercial) as they chew a bite of Tim Ho Wan’s barbecue buns.
I believe part of Tim Ho Wan’s charm is its little space. While the queue outside might discourage others from standing in line, it can actually attract foreigners. We were in fact in line with a few backpackers – a cute Irish couple, two loud Korean friends, an intimidating Russian couple, and NFL player Zeke Markshaussen. The small space that can accommodate about 20 diners at a time is a good place to make friends. I remember the signs on Raku’s tables – Share a table; Make a friend. And this is exactly what we did. There were only 5 of us, and our table was for 6, so the waiters at Tim Ho Wan sat Zeke with us. He was really friendly. So friendly in fact that he didn’t say anything while Nicole gorged herself with his food! Haha
The food, contrary to my expectations, was nothing extraordinary. However, it was ridiculously cheap compared to the other restaurants we’ve tried. I understand that the authenticity both in atmosphere and food is quite appealing, but I don’t think that it’s worth the hype. It’s something that one has to try at least once, but it’s no reason to come back and wait another 2 hours for. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. BUT, it’s a run of the mill dimsum place – completely forgettable if not for the experience.
Maybe I’ve spoken too soon. While I type this I’m craving for their sweet Barbecue bun which is basically char siu/pork packed into a sweet pastry-covered roll. I remember dismissing this as “just a version of Philippine’s asado bun”, but this has an unexplainable tang that’s completely different from asado buns. Now, if you ever visit Tim Ho Wan, this is the only dish that receives high recommendation from me. And if you ever visit Tim Ho Wan and buy yourselves these heavenly buns, do visit the Philippines after and bring me some. Please.
Tim Ho Wan may have received a star from the Michelin guide, but not one from me. I’m sorry sweet-lady-outside-Tim-Ho-Wan-who-shoved-me-into-the-restaurant-soooo-politely.