World’s Cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant: Tim Ho Wan in NYC

Tim Ho Wan (Chinese: 添好運) is a Michelin star dim sum restaurant from Hong Kong that just recently opened its first US restaurant in East Village in New York City. For those who don’t know what dim sum is, it’s basically Chinese tapas. What’s special about Tim Ho Wan is that it used to be the world’s cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant. Being a Michelin Star restaurant often make people the restaurant is too expensive but in reality, Michelin Star is often awarded not for its price, but for the consistency in food and services.

Dim Sum is a type of Chinese cuisine that originated in Southern China. Dim Sum is usually served during brunch and it’s meant to be served with tea and various types of small dishes. These small dishes or “Chinese tapas” are served on small plates of steamer baskets. Dim Sum meal usually 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 Tim Ho Wan is the cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant 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 because it’s actually affordable for lower and middle class people in Hong Kong to enjoy.

When I was in Hong Kong, I visited Tim ho Wan 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. On its soft opening day in New York City, there was a line at Tim Ho Wan that was a couple of blocks long just to put your name down. We waited for an hour outside in the cold 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.

What to Order at Tim Ho Wan in NYC

The interior of Tim Ho Wan in NYC 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 the NYC one give you a piece of paper to check off which dim sum dish you would like to order.

Priced under $5 per dim sum, we pretty much ordered half of the menu. If you have never been to Tim Ho Wan in NYC before, then I highly recommend that you order 2-3 dishes per person since they are really small portions and meant to be shared just like tapas.

The most famous dish at Tim Ho Wan in NYC is the pork bun. Unlike pork buns from other dim sum restaurant, the Tim Ho Wan pork buns are sweet 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 a pastry just because it’s a little sweet.

Other good things to order at Tim Ho Wan in NYC

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. This is gluten free since the skin is made or rice instead of flours. The restaurant pours soy sauce onto the rice roll when you order because it’s rather bland without the soy sauce. At Tim Ho Wan you can either order the rice roll with shrimp or rice roll with beef. Personally I prefer the shrimp rice roll more than the beef one.

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.

Shrimp Shumai: Shumai is a dim sum stable and you cannot say you’ve had dim sum if you don’t eat shumai.  Shumai is basically steamed pork dumpling with shrimp on the inside. The shumai at Tim Ho Wan a lot smaller than other dim sum restaurants but good nevertheless

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

Pan Fried Turnip Cake: Pan Fried Turnip Cake is 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. I’m not sure if it’s a one time thing or it’s just how Tim Ho Wan makes their pan fried turnip cake.

French Toast with Custard: this is a Tim Ho Wan 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. It’s an interesting taste french toast but it’s not something I’m used to.

Steamed Egg Cake: The Steamed Egg Cake at Tim ho Wan is one of the best desserts I’ve had in a dim sum restaurant. The cake is really soft and fluffy and not overly sweet. I can eat it all day if I can! If you visit the Tim Ho Wan in NYC and want something sweet to finish up, then definitely do not miss out on this wonderful dessert.

Other Tim Ho Wan NYC Menu Items

Steamed Pork Spare Rib with Black Bean Sauce: I remember really liking this dish when I ate at the Tim Ho Wan 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. I haven’t tried it since in NYC.

Tips to Eating at Tim Ho Wan in NYC

  • Go early on the weekend or you will have to wait over an hour for a seat at Tim Ho Wan
  • Find a cafe near Tim Ho Wan 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
  • Go to Tim Ho Wan on an empty stomached and be ready to order everything
  • If you eat at Tim Ho Wan you HAVE TO try their pork buns