Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant draws diners for its buns, dumplings and rolls

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BAKED buns with barbecue pork

The queue that forms in front of Tim Ho Wan at SM Megamall as early as 10 a.m. has been tweeted and Instagrammed numerous times since the restaurant opened over a month ago. Throughout the day, it may coil snakelike or become short and manageable, but there is always a line—a reminder of sorts that this restaurant is fronted by a chef who received a Michelin star for his take on Chinese dim sum.

At the press lunch held last week, chef Mak Kwai Pui gamely posed for photos with members of the lifestyle press. Through an interpreter, the visiting chef said he was happy that Filipinos enjoyed his dim sum.

The Hong Kong native recalled starting many years ago as an apprentice at his uncle’s small restaurant. He moved on to work for hotels such as La Meridien and Four Seasons, all the while expanding his knowledge on traditional Cantonese dim sum.

In 2009 he opened his own restaurant in Mong Kok, Hong Kong. The following year, Mak was awarded one Michelin star. The lines have been

Pan-fried carrot cake

there ever since. It has certainly helped that Tim Ho Wan is also known as the least expensive Michelin-starred restaurant. Those who want their dim sum fix can also go to several branches in Hong Kong as well as in Singapore.

Most popular in Manila

In Manila, the selection at Tim Ho Wan is identical and consists of 25 short orders excluding beverages. The most popular item, however, seems to be the Baked Buns with Barbecue Pork (three pieces for P145). The buns, as well as the meat filling, are sweeter than savory—the latter is sweetened with pineapple. You can see trays with the crusty brown buns moving swiftly out of the kitchen.

Even as they are a big hit with fans, the buns have also left some diners underwhelmed, with some scratching their heads at what they call “dessert buns.”

Fortunately, there are other items to choose from. Aside from the buns, the top items include the Pan-fried Carrot Cake, Steamed Egg Cake, and Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver.

CHEF Mak Kwai Pui

The carrot cake is almost identical to the more common pan-fried radish cake, but the vermicelli roll is chewy and savory. There are four other vermicelli roll fillings to enjoy, such as the barbecue pork, beef, shrimp and a sweet, sesame sauce.

Tim Ho Wan’s steamed dumplings are some of the best because they are freshly made and not just reheated. Diners can have Prawn Dumplings, Pork Dumplings with Shrimp, Teochew-style Dumplings, or Spinach Dumplings with Shrimp. Each order served in a bamboo steamer contains three or four pieces and is priced from P120 to P160.

The Glutinous Rice with Lotus Leaf—more popularly known as machang—is the most expensive item on the menu at P190 per order. But it is chock-full of meat and mushrooms, making it a one-dish meal that’s quite filling.

Asked which among the items was his favorite, chef Mak replied, “I like all of them equally.”

One item that is surprising for its flavorful, eggy richness is the Congee with Pork, Century Egg and Salted Egg. At a reasonable P140, this bowl of

THE QUEUE that forms in front of Tim HoWan as early as 10 a.m. RAOUL J. CHEE KEE

comfort food would be perfect on a rainy day. But are you willing to line up for it?

Tim Ho Wan is at G/L SM Megamall Fashion Hall.

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  • Mike Gellar

    It is a very small, cramped restaurant… that may be a strategy so the queue may create an optical illusion of sort. I like the baked buns… and the congee. Others may be flavorful, but not value for the money.

    • Ornbort

      same with JCo. Artificial line. Pass.

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