Tim Ho Wan (loosely “Add Good Luck” in Cantonese) has been a sensation. Dubbed the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant (since surpassed by the Chicken/rice stall in Singapore), the tiny 20 seat eatery from Hong Kong has become a global franchise. The rapid growth of the brand across Asia and Australia, and now into the USA, has left many reviewers with sky high expectations.
My first visit to the Burwood branch was soon after it opened. I was simply in awe of their business model. I mean, yum cha generally knows how to get people in and out, fed fast and up-sold to more expensive dishes. Most yum cha places have this down to a solid art. Partly, it’s that same speed that appeals to us. We can arrive with starving children, and they are fed as soon as we sit down. Tim Ho Wan, Burwood, takes this to the next level.
On arrival, they have a specific waiting line with seats. It’s functional, and reasonably comfortable (more comfy than standing in line). The staff present you with an order form. The menu is all listed out with little boxes where you indicate quantity. And of course, the longer you wait in line, the hungrier you get, and the more little boxes you fill out. Once you reach the head of the queue, the list is whipped away and an invoice arrives at your table as you sit. Each item is crossed off as it arrives. Very efficient. On our second visit, it was a week-day lunch so there was no queue. The ordering process occurred at our table.
The baked pork buns are their signature dish, and that first taste is magic. On our second visit, we expected that magic, but of course without the surprise element, some of the magic dissolved although they were still amazing. Nothing like the steamed bbq pork buns that are the yum cha stock standard. The first time around, I almost didn’t order these, because I find bbq pork buns a bit boring. Not at Tim Ho Wan. They’ve taken a boring dish and elevated it to something different, unexpected and magic. The texture of the baked buns contrasts with the slightly sweet pork inside.
The dumplings are all good – they have an excellent ratio of flavourful insides compared to the thin, translucent wrappings.
A dish that we tried on our first visit, and to be fair, a dish that I would never have selected myself, was the fried tofu with candied pork. We definitely ordered this again on our second visit. The tofu (which I usually don’t care for) was silky; deep fried in a coating that had hints of KFC with much more chilli heat. And of course, the candied pork. Well – what’s not to like about that!
One of the highlights at our second visit was a new dish. Charcoal steam bun with gold paint and a salted egg. This dish was soft, melt in your mouth, with a salty custard-like filling. Worth the visit just for this.