Tim Ho Wan (10 to 25 HKD / 100 to 200 PHP / 1.3 to 3.25 USD based on HK’s prices)
Despite being ethnically Chinese, I had never been a dim sum aficionado… until I visited Tim Ho Wan (THW) in Hong Kong.
I stumbled upon it while googling for the top-rated eateries in Asia’s World City in one of my trips there earlier this year. Seeing that it was the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred joint, I immediately headed out to try the branch closest to my hotel. Since then, I was resolved to making THW a compulsory destination whenever I’m in HK. What led me to this dedication? I’ll explain by way of visuals and remarks shortly.
> Ground Floor, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point
> Podium Level 1, IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong
When my business trips to Hong Kong had come to a halt, I found myself craving for Tim Ho Wan’s dishes but felt that the dim sum places in Manila wouldn’t do.
I was pleasantly surprised when a friend shared the good news that a branch was going to open in Manila! Turns out it already had on May 20th. The franchise was brought over through the partnership of restaurateur Rikki Dee (guy behind the notable Todd English, Mesa, Kitchen, etc.) and entrepreneur Felix Ang.
Needless to say, I set to have lunch there with a friend to satisfy my craving and to assess how the local branch would compare (as taste and quality tend to differ with international expansions of popular establishments).
Having a Michelin label understandably drives in crowds so both HK and MNL branches had their respective queues at peak dining hours. Furthermore, as it’s the only resto in the country with that title attached, my friend had to line up for 30 mins from 1 PM (on a weekday) before he was called for a table.
To order, check the items you’d like to have in the Order Sheet (samples can be seen in the Pricing section below) then pass it to a food attendant.
> Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (18 HKD vs. 145 PHP for 3 pcs.)
HK: Upon first bite, it oozed out the creamy, sweet and salty barbecued pork within the crumbly, chewy, and sugared crust. I’d much prefer this over the conventional steamed bun a.k.a. Baozi (for native Chinese) or Siopao (for Filipino-Chinese). It also appeared to have been freshly baked. Two thumbs up for this signature dish! ❤
MNL: The crust was slightly less sweet (and darker) than the HK one while the pork meat had gummy and tough parts. It’s still pretty good for those who haven’t tried it though.
> Steamed Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp (20 HKD vs. P120 for 3 pcs.)
> Vermicelli Rolls
HK: Stuffed with Beef (20 HKD vs. 160 PHP for 3 pcs.): The rice rolls were velvety and had a melt-in-your-mouth goodness. I hardly caught the beef though.
I also tried the rolls stuffed with Shrimp on another occasion (forgot to take a photo). It instantly became my favorite and it was way better than the beef topping. The shrimps were fresh and succulent. Another two thumbs up for this! ❤
MNL: Stuffed with Shrimps (23 HKD vs. 190 PHP for 3 pcs.)
This remains to be my favorite ‘coz it was simply good even though it was a little less melt-in-your-mouth. Sauce was apparently less (and lighter in color) than its counterpart. Shrimp content was somewhat consistent.
> HK’s Pan-fried Turnip Cake (12 HKD) vs. MNL’s Pan Fried Carrot Cake (145 PHP)
Maybe I lacked the expertise in distinguishing turnip from radish but they both tasted like soft-textured layers of radish (as they’re both from the same root vegetable family) with a bit of crispy exterior. There was no hint of carrot in the latter though. Nonetheless, both renditions were decent.
> Steamed Egg Cake (15 HKD vs. 85 PHP)
HK: It’s spongy, fluffy, and eggy, and had a mild caramel taste. Yum! 🙂
Other Items I ordered in either Hong Kong or Manila:
> Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumpings a.k.a Ha Jiao (25 HKD vs. 160 PHP)
> Steamed Pork Dumplings a.k.a. Siu Mai (25 HKD vs. 150 PHP)
> Spring Roll with Egg White (120 PHP)
*Not in HK menu.
> Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf (190 PHP) a.k.a. Zongzi (for native Chinese) or Machang (for Filipino-Chinese).
*In HK menu, this is called Glutinous Rice Dumpling (25 HKD).
There are several more items I have yet to try so I will come back for those then post my updates later.
Tim Ho Wan is a fast-casual dining restaurant that maximizes its seating capacity to accommodate its high volume of loyal patrons. The Hong Kong branches have a bright and modern minimalist oriental design (as seen in the 2nd photo above) while the one in Manila appears grander with its large pendant drum chandeliers.
In Hong Kong, you will be prompted to share a table with other diners (a custom there) especially when the place is packed.
The food attendants in Hong Kong remarkably work fast but are far from providing the best customer service. When they notice that you’ve finished your meal, you will start to feel rather pressured to leave your seat/table right away so they can prepare to entertain other guests. This somehow makes for an efficient system and contributes to a great turnaround for their business but customers (particularly non-Honkies) can be put off by the lack of courtesy. In any case as their food is undeniably of superior standards, people continue to flock in (but customer isn’t king).
Finally, diners walk up to the counter to pay for their meals. This is a common practice of HK eateries.
In Manila, on the other hand, service was neither as fast (but speedier than most local joints) nor as effective. When we wanted to take out what we could no longer consume, the waiter told us to wrap the items ourselves. They refused to touch the food claiming that they didn’t have the apparatus (when in fact they were just rushing). They also took time to render us our bill so we had to follow-up on it twice.
Tim Ho Wan’s dishes are affordably-priced especially given the freshness and fine quality of their ingredients and the distinctively delectable tastes.
In Manila, however, most items were priced at a premium on top of Hong Kong’s. Only a handful had direct conversions from the HKD costs despite the fact that the standard of living in HK is significantly higher.
Hong Kong Overall Rating: 9/10 ❤ 🙂
Manila Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Device: iPhone 5s