World’s Cheapest Michelin Star: Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan (Chinese: 添好運) is a michelin star dim sum restaurant from Hong Kong that just recently opened its first US brand in East Village in New York City. For those who don’t know what dim sum is, it’s basically Chinese tapas. It’s usually served with tea for brunch and consists of various types of small dishes served on small plates of steamer baskets. These dishes include things such as pork buns, spareribs, roasted meats, steamed vegetables, egg custards, sesame balls, radish cake, chicken feet, various forms of prawn dishes, etc.

Tim Ho Wan is famous for being the “cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant” in the world. Although I don’t think it’s the cheapest anymore, but it’s definitely still cheap! It was opened by a chef who used to work at a 3 Michelin Star restaurant in Hong Kong. At the time people often complained that Michelin Star is for the “elite” and expensive restaurants. When it was awarded one star, it became the world’s cheapest Michelin Star restaurant.

When I was in Hong Kong, I visited this restaurant 3 times in a month even though every time we had to wait for 1+ hour. Now that it finally opened in New York, I HAD to try it on opening day. Last Friday was its soft opening day and the line was a couple of blocks long just to put the name down. We waited for an hour outside in the cold just to put our name and number down. Then we were told that it’s another 3 hour wait from that point. Good thing we live near by so we decided to wait at home.

Finally at 9:30pm we got the text! We were really excited to finally be able to eat there after a whole night of waiting.

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The interior of the restaurant was really nicely decorated and spacious compare to the ones in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong we had to order at the counter but it’s nice that they give you a piece of paper to check off which dim sum dish you would like to order.

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Order form

Priced under $5 per dim sum, we pretty much ordered half of the menu.

They are known for their pork bun. Unlike pork buns from other dim sum restaurant, this one is soft and crispy on the outside with really juicy and sweet cha-shu meat on the inside. I personally think this is a combination of main dish and dessert just because it’s rather sweet.

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Pork Bun

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We ordered quite a number of other things:

  • Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf: it’s basically sticky rice and really tender chicken wrapped in lotus leaf. Verdict? I love the chicken, but there was a little bit of too much rice
  • Shrimp Siumai: It’s basically steamed pork dumpling with shrimp inside. It’s a lot smaller than other dim sum restaurants but good nevertheless
  • Steamed Rice Roll with Shrimp: my all time favorite at any dim sum places. I love that the rice roll is so soft and shrimp still plump
  • Pan Fried Turnip Cake: it’s basically pan fried mixture of turnip and flour. Normally I like the crispy outside and soft interior, but I think this one was a little too soft that we could barely pick it up with chopsticks. Might not order again next time
  • Deep Fried Eggplant with Shrimp: one of my favorite dishes from Tim Ho Wan. The eggplant is perfectly seasoned and the shrimp so tasty! It’s really hot when it’s first served so be careful
  • French Toast with Custard: this is a NYC only menu item. I had never seen it before in Hong Kong so we had to order it to try. I guess it’s their interpretation of “east meets west”. It’s basically a small french toast with some custard in the middle. Not my favorite, would probably try another dessert next time

A couple of things that we did not order this time but I got them from Hong Kong:

  • Steamed Pork Spare Rib with Black Bean Sauce: I remember really liking this dish when I ate at the Hong Kong location. It’s a lot less greasy than the same dish served at other dim sum restaurants.
  • Steamed Rice with Minced Beef and Pan Fried Egg: it sounds really good but I was quite disappointed when I got it in Hong Kong. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be that way but I felt the beef was not cooked at all.
  • Steamed Egg Cake: OMG that is literally the best dessert there. I would eat two in a heart beat ❤
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    Chicken and Rice wrapped in leaves

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    “French Toast”

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    Shumai

     

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    Steamed Rice Roll with Shrimp

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    Raddish Cake

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    Eggplant and shrimp

Overall I was happy that we got to try the New York branch, but I would not wait 4 hours for it again. However, if you want to, here are some tips:

  • Go an hour before they open (they open at 10am and 5pm) or you will have to wait over an hour for a seat
  • Find a cafe near by because you are in for a long wait, but at least they will text you when your table is ready
  • You have exactly 10 minutes to get to the restaurant before they give your table away
  • Do not bother to go after 7pm because they would’ve gotten enough names for the entire night. The restaurant will be closed unless you have a text from them informing you that your table is ready
  • Go empty stomached and be ready to order everything
  • Must try their pork buns
  • Take a picture with the chef/boss 🙂

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