World cheapest Michelin star restaurant: Tim Ho Wan (Hong Kong)
Tim Ho Wan is the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. With strictly no reservations, the only choice to just wake up early and head towards Mong Kok or any of the other locations to eat in this “low-cost” Michelin starred restaurant.
Mong Kok is, even recorded in the Guinness Book of Records, as the world’s most densely populated urban area, with about 130,000 people per square kilometer. In the same way as Wan Chai, the name of the neighborhood is connoted by the legend. The Triads, the 60’s riots, Bruce Lee, the first film by Wong Kar Wai; Hong Kong is specialized turning their own legends into museum pieces. So what i found in here is a neighborhood of hellish traffic that never sleeps; full of restaurants, markets, flea markets, grouped specialty stores: flowers, goldfish, pots and pans, tools and just about everything.
A little history of Tim Ho Wan
Tim Ho Wan Restaurant, was opened in 2009 by Mak Pui Gor, dim sums chef in the three Michelin star restaurant “Lung King Heen” of Four Seasons Hotel until he decided to open his own restaurant. Against the usual custom, they proudly hold the Michelin Guide sticker at the door. Thanks to this, and the waiting crowd is an easy restaurant to find. Otherwise it would be difficult to find, because the restaurant name is only written in Chinese, and there are many signs on the storefronts that doesn’t make things any easier.
Since 2009 the restaurant is been very successful:
- 2009: First Restaurant Opens.
- 2010: Sham Shui Po location open, and earns a Michelin star in the 2011 guide.
- 2011: IFC Mall location open.
- 2012: North Point location open.
- 2013: Mongkok location closes and moves to Olympian city.
- 2013: First location opens in Singapore.
Since then there has been also openings in Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney…
Dim Sums, small Chinese delicacies
Dim sums are traditionally eaten mid-morning, more like a snack rather than a full meal itself. So Tim Ho Wan restaurant opens at ten. Once successfully located, i had to being queuing. While in line you can notice a procedure: in the door is a small tray with pencils and printed menus (Green for Chinese menu and yellow for English menu). So while in line, you should mark the dishes with the pencil and so, when you enter the restaurant just deliver the cross marked paper menu, with the dishes you actually want to eat.
There are also two ladies on the door, that try to coordinate the waiting customers, giving numbers and making a estimate of the waiting time. And waiting time can be very long: From 10 minutes to 1 hour, or even 2 or 3 hour waiting time. So arm yourself with patience.
Tim Ho Wan restaurant does not have a very different aspect than the other hundreds of popular restaurants in Hong Kong. Enter, eat, pay when you live and share a table if necessary. Around 11 o’clock on a misty Tuesday i took possession of my tiny territory on the table that i had to share with other gentlemen. Because needless to say the place was packed.
Food finally arrives
The first thing to be served was the drinks: a glass of Chinese Pu-er tea, that gets refilled as needed. The Pu-er tea is commonly served at popular restaurants, so it is possible here serve as a wink of distinction; Formerly a tea specialty consumed by the nobility and now you can become an expensive product and luxurious as the fermentation time. Although can be bought fairly cheap from Yunnan province (west mainland China), where is originally from. After tea, the dish keep on coming. And they rarely reached HK $20, everything amounting to about HK $100 (about 13 US dollars).
As the delicious dim sums of Tim Ho Wan were arriving to my table i could easily notice a pattern: what i was eating was the classic dim sums, superbly made, perfect, exquisite; dumplings with meat or shrimp, meatballs, chicken feet, roasted turnip cake, fried noodles, lily pads wrapped in rice; but nothing that i had not tried before or had not seen before.
No experiment or innovation except a “iceberg lettuce steamed with soy sauce”(!), but the actual deployment of surrounding wonders did minimize and even made me forget this annoying mishap. In the end the display of quality food made me left quite satisfied and wishing to come back… if wasn’t for the crazy waiting lines you must suffer.
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Tim Ho Wan restaurant in Hong Kong:
1. Sham Shui Po
Fuk Wing Street
Sham Shui Po (Kowloon)
2. IFC Mall
Hong Kong Station
Podium Level 1
IFC Central Mall
3. Olympian City
Shop 72, G/F
Olympian City 2
18 Hoi Ting Road
Tai Kok Tsui (Olympian City Mall)
4. North Point
G/F,2-8 Wharf Road
You can also check Tim ho wan website here.