Dim sum 点心 means “a piece of heart,” representing an item that takes sincerity and delicacy to make (一点心意). It is a skill so intricate that even Gordon Ramsey cannot master, and so when Hong Kong Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan (meaning: “add good luck”) opened in Singapore just today at 10am, we kiasu, rushed down.
Is the dim sum as Q as the Queue? Let’s find out.
When Tim Ho Wan’s chef-founder Mak Kwai Pui was first approached to open a franchise in Singapore, his condition is everything has to be done the same way in Hong Kong. Chef Mak plans to visit the Singapore branch every three to four months to ensure that everything is in order. While he is away, the restaurant is in the good hands of Chef Fung Kam Tim, a Hong-Konger, who did very excellent work–his Peking duck is legendary–at Marriott’s Wan Hao.
Chef Mak formerly worked at a three Michelin-star restaurant Lung King Heen and left to open a hole-in-the-wall, affordable eatery that earns him a Michelin star since 2009. (Michelin stars are awarded yearly and you can lose the star.) People were shocked that such an eatery, that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars a meal, could win a star.
Tim Ho Wan Singapore Menu
When asked why his dim sum is so outstanding, Chef Mak replied that making dim sum is very simple, you have to make it on-the-spot and serve it hot on-the-spot. In most places in Singapore, dim sum is ready-made and when customers order, they heat up the dim sum. But at Tim Ho Wan, everything is made fresh upon ordering.
FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS 四大天王
The Four Heavenly Kings are a must-order. Everyone seemed to adore and blog about the baked bun with BBQ pork 酥皮叉烧包 (3 for $4.50, pictured above). A crowd-pleaser, the skin was crisp and the filling sweet but it wasn’t the best dish for me. I prefer the pork to have a darker sauce, and more char, and overall, more character.
If the BBQ pork bun was excellent, the other two “Kings” were better than excellent, more subtle and sublime. The vermicelli roll with pig’s liver 黄沙猪润肠 ($5.50, pictured above) was bland on first bite but as you eat more, it grows on you. There was a subtle happiness in it–how was it possible to make the liver as smooth and tender as the roll?! The steamed egg cake 香滑马来糕 (1pc $3.80, pictured below) was magical, the best I had ever eaten. Not as sweet as elsewhere, with a lightness of touch and fluffiness.
The last king, pan fried carrot cake 香煎萝卜糕 (3 pcs $4.50, pictured below), however, was a bit of hit-and-miss. Instead of blending into a real smooth cake, there were half-slices of radish, which gave the dish a lively texture. But it also means that the carrot cake depends on the supply of radish for the day. For our tasting, the radish came across as slightly sourish, which I liked, but it is not for everyone.
There was a slight contention for the steamed items. I savored every detail of the prawn dumpling 晶莹鲜虾饺 (4 pcs $5.50). The skin was perfectly luminous, so tender and chewy, without sticking to the tracing paper on the basket. Do you know this is the first time in years I had har gow that didn’t stick to the paper?! The ingredients in the skin was perfect in its microcosm, bouncy with bursting flavors and much integrity.
But Daniel Food Diary preferred the pork dumpling with shrimp 鲜虾烧卖皇 (4 pcs $5) because it tasted porky, the same reason I didn’t quite like it. Besides, the skin of the four siew mai stuck together.
However, we both agreed that garlic, mushroom, spinach dumpling 金蒜香菇菠菜胶 (3 pcs $3.80) was divine. The skin was slippery and soft and tender and bouncy, contrasting the crunchiness of the vegetables that tasted a bit like chives. Even if you dislike vegetables like me, you must order and try this.
DEEP/ PAN-FRIED ITEMS
For a deep-fried item, the spring roll with egg white 赛螃蟹春卷 (3 pcs $4.20) was very unique. Although the skin could be dabbed of the oil, the crispiness of the skin was padded beautifully by the softness of the egg white, and when you add a dollop of the sweet-chili, the dish sings.
My last recommendation is also a must-order, rice with chicken feet & pork rib 凤爪排骨饭 ($6). Don’t know what sorcery it was but it was irresistibly fragrant. Could have a bit more chicken feet.
At the end of the meal, Daniel, having tried the one in Hong Kong, declared that Singapore branch is better. Hooray! As for me, the other Michelin-star dim sum restaurant I tried was Yauatcha in London. If I compare the two, I’d say they are both excellent, Yauatcha is more innovative while Tim Ho Wan is so solidly traditional that a white person can speak Cantonese just by eating the dim sum.
In the end, I am glad Tim Ho Wan has arrived in Singapore. The restaurant isn’t only about the pork bun; everything ranged from delicious to sublime. It may even replace my favorite dim sum restaurant, Mouth Restaurant. I await eagerly that Tim Ho Wan has outlets all over Singapore (so that we don’t have to queue for hours), and hope the standards can remain consistent.
Tim Ho Wan Singapore
68 Orchard Road
The Atrium@Orchard, Plaza Singapura
T: 6383 2828
Rating: 3.777/5 stars
PS: Thanks, Pris, for hosting the media invite and thanks, Daniel, for bringing me along.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.