While I do have a few favorite Chinese restaurants, I’m not particularly a fan of Chinese cuisine. Not that I hate it though. It’s just that I was going into this without any real expectations. So after what seems like a couple of years of seeing the long lines outside every Tim Ho Wan restaurant we’ve seen, the wife and I finally decided to see if there was anything to the hype of being the most affordable Michelin star restaurant.
While Tim Ho Wan only has a few restaurants in the Metro, they’re all in pretty prominent locations. The first one opened at the SM Megamall Fashion Hall way back in May of 2014. Since then, they’ve opened 3 other restaurants at Glorietta 3, SM City North EDSA, and Robinsons Place, Manila. The tables are typically small and lines are long, so if you’re looking to take someone on a first date, Tim Ho Wan’s isn’t the best idea.
A lot of you may already know this, but their Baked Buns with BBQ Pork (Php145, 3pcs) are world famous. I didn’t. So when I bit into the well-presented but unassuming pork buns, I was greeted with one of the biggest surprises I had ever experienced when visiting any restaurant for the first time. The crust is baked to a light crisp, and it’s pretty thin too, so the flavor of the hot pork BBQ filling flows immediately into your mouth and spreads out across your tongue as soon as you bite into it. Alas, there was only three of them. Luckily, the wife only wanted one so I eagerly gobbled up the second before she changed her mind. If I had to have a single reason for coming back to Tim Ho Wan’s, it would be their baked pork buns.
Another item we ordered from the menu was their Prawn Dumplings (Php160), or Hakaw. These dumplings aren’t technically part of the four Heavenly Kings that they are known for. However, it seems that the Pinoy taste gravitates toward hakaw many times. In the case of Tim Ho Wan, it wasn’t any different. As expected of a Michelin star restaurant, the prawn dumplings were steamed to perfection. Picking them up with chopsticks was easy-peasy thanks. The hakaw were large and the wrapper didn’t tear at the slightest attempt to lift them out of the bowl. The prawns were notably fresh too. It was almost an experience in itself when my teeth breached the wrapper and bit into the almost crunchy firm prawns inside.
Our main dish if it can be called that was the Spareribs Rice (Php170). It’s essentially a rice topping dish with steamed rice and spareribs in brown sauce poured over it. I usually have a love-hate relationship with spareribs because you have to contend with the bones, but in this case they were chopped up to make it easier to eat with chopsticks or just with a spoon and fork out of the bowl. The spareribs were certainly tender although not excessively so, and the sauce had just the right hint of sweetness to it.
We ordered the Vermicelli Roll with BBQ Pork (Php160) just as an afterthought, and unfortunately that was almost exactly what it was. Having come from the heavenly pork buns and their own BBQ pork filling, I was expecting the same burst of flavor. Alas, it wasn’t so. Considering the thinness of the wrapper, it’s impressive that it was able to keep its form without tearing. And it certainly wasn’t bad. Quite good, actually. However as good as the presentation was, anything with BBQ pork was just going to be a downhill affair after those pork buns.
So Is It Worth Coming Back For?
The food is unquestionably good, with the dim sum of a consistently high quality. It’s a Michelin-star restaurant after all, and the most affordable at that. Alas, its excellent reputation has made it difficult for me to ever come back here. It was by a combination of luck and great timing that we were able to eat here without enduring in a queue and it’s not an experience I would want to chance. Still, if you can time your visit right at the mall’s opening hours and during those petsa de peligro days where people just aren’t going out, you might end up getting seated as quickly as we did!