First Impressions on Tim Ho Wan ManilaMay 21, 2014
Amongst all the restaurants set to open this year, the arrival of Tim Ho Wan has been one of the most anticipated ones. The constantly lauded restaurant chain has always been known as the cheapest One Michelin star in the world, creating lines across its branches in Hong Kong. Now that it has finally opened after months of anticipation, fans can enjoy the food it has become known for.
Tim Ho Wan’s menu is succinct, and has all the staples that people have come to love.
The 4 heavenly kings dimsum, which are the most famous dishes in the restaurant, are all available here—Steamed Egg Cake, Pan Fried Carrot Cake, Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver, and the legendary Pork Buns. There’s also a variety of dimsum, both steamed and deep fried- although slightly limited, there is enough variation, which means a good-sized group of friends can try all the place has to offer.
The Baked Buns with BBQ Pork remain the star of Tim Ho Wan. These are far from the buns we are more used to here, which often come steamed. They are golden, crisp, and unexplainably delicious. The exterior has a cracked shell, slightly sweet, which crunches down when bitten into, and folds into the soft, braised pork. The buns taste exactly as they do in Hong Kong, which is a very good surprise. Often, franchises have to find local alternatives to ingredients, compromising in quality, but the buns seem to be unchanged.
The Steamed Egg Cake was unexpected, as it seemed routine on paper, but it was incredibly moist, and tasted both salty and sweet, as if made from salted egg. Another of the recommended dim sum, Vermicelli Rolls with Pig’s Liver, was just as good. The wrapper was incredibly thin, almost translucent, giving away what was enveloped underneath. The rolls have other variants, some with bbq pork, beef, or shrimp, but the pig liver is worth a try. The liver is cooked in a way that does not make it grainy, which lets those scared of offal enjoy the meatier flavor without being put off by the texture.
Venturing away from the 4 heavenly kings dimsum, there is a lot here to revel in.
Steamed Beancurd Skin Roll with Pork and Shrimp was an instant favorite. The skin was perfect, the right between both chewy and soft, with a generous filling of diced pork and shrimp, and a sauce that is just sweet enough. The spinach dumplings had a casing that was different from your regular rice or egg dimsum wrapper—it was a little thicker, but with a pliable texture akin to mochi, and was a general crowd pleaser. Seasoned just right, the dumplings were another hit. While there were only 3 rice offerings, the Chicken, Sausage, and Mushroom that came in a little metal pot smelled just like Hong Kong food streets do—strong, pungent, but at the same time fragrant and inviting, enveloping the dining room. A lotus leaf-wrapped rice worked extremely well, the gelatinous rice perfect with the sweet sausage and chicken mixed inside.
Service was as expected for an opening, flustered at best, but the food was excellent.
It is hard to gauge how well Tim Ho Wan’s Manila branches will operate, especially since it is only in its opening stages, where chefs from Hong Kong are behind the kitchen, making sure that the staff gets it right. Service was as expected for an opening, flustered at best, but the food was excellent. There was not one sour note, as even the divisive, fragrant Tonic Medlar and Osmanthus Cake was texturally beautiful, and at the perfect temperature. The question on everyone’s minds will inevitably be—how does it fare to the original? While the atmosphere is far from the original branch, the food is what is important here, and it is very, very close, with prices that are extremely friendly to the Philippine pocket; we ordered almost everything on the menu, but the total bill came up to less than a thousand pesos. I hope it stays this way.