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Dim Sum at the Cheapest Michelin Starred Restaurant in the World

Hong Kong, with its varied culinary scene, is spoiled for choice when it comes to the Michelin Guide. In 2015, there are no less than 64 different restaurants to choose from.

This city has 64 Michelin starred restaurants in it.

This city has 64 Michelin starred restaurants in it.

There’s French contemporary at L’atelier de Joel Robuchon – where a discovery menu costs $300, Sushi Shikon – where 12 pieces of nigiri sushi will set you back $250, or “Sumptuous Cantonese Dining” at the Shangri-la’s Shang Palace. It’s enough to make you want to rob a bank.

Of course, I wasn’t too interested in a prison sentence, so the only restaurant I wanted to check out, was humble hole-in-the-wall, Tim Ho Wan, or, the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. The promise of high quality dim sum at down and dirty prices was too much for me to resist.

Long before it was awarded a Michelin star in 2010, Tim Ho Wan was notorious for it’s crazy queues. In a city already obsessed with dim sum, who could forgo the chance to dine on one of Chef Mak Kwai Pui’s creations, at such a low price – he of 3 Michelin-starred Lung King Heen fame.

Stories of 3-5 hour waits abound, but thankfully, when we arrived at the restaurant, it was only half full, despite the fact that we’d shown up 1 minute after opening. Within minutes, the rest of the tables filled up and a small line formed outside its doors. No matter though, we were safely in our seats, and proceeded to order the signature Char Siu Bao, steamed beef balls, Siu Mai and a new menu item – an almond covered taro ball with chicken.

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The verdict? The Sui Mai and Char Sui Bao were delicious, but didn’t stand out as much more exceptional than other high quality dim sum restaurants I’ve been to. The taro ball didn’t do it for me, but admittedly, I’ve never been a huge fan of the purple potato. The highlight was definitely the steamed beef ball with bean curd skin. It’s one of my favourite dim sum dishes, so I’ve had it many times. At Tim Ho Wan, the modest beef ball was elevated to a delectable morsel of texture and taste.

Overall, I’d say the food was flavourful, non-greasy and obviously well prepared, but not extraordinary. No, the thing that makes Tim Ho Wan extraordinary is the quality to price ratio.

Where else in the world can you have a Michelin quality meal for $5/person?

Our Tips for Visiting

1. Show up early or show up late. Don’t go right at peak time, or you’ll probably have to queue.
2. These days there are multiple locations of Tim Ho Wan. Some locations are busier than others. Plan accordingly.
3. Go with an empty stomach and eat as much as you can. There are few places in the world, let alone a Michelin starred one, where you can eat the entire menu for less than $75. (You won’t be able to, but you can try). 😉

Have you visited any Michelin starred restaurants? What was your experience like?

26 Comments Post a comment
  1. You had me at 5 bucks a meal!

    January 14, 2015
  2. Sounds like a great experience!

    January 14, 2015
    • I love dim sum and really miss it here in Korea, so this was tops on my list during my visit to HK. Thank goodness the food was good. 🙂

      January 15, 2015
  3. I’m going to HK in March so I’ll definitely check them out. Mmmm. 😛

    January 15, 2015
    • Awesome! 🙂 I just discovered that there are 2 other cheap Michelin starred restaurants in HK. Ho Hung Kee for wonton noodles – $8, and Yat Lak for goose noodles (whatever that is) – also $8. Maybe you can check those out too and let us know how they are? I wish I’d known about them when I was there… 😉

      January 15, 2015
      • I’ll keep you posted! Meanwhile, any recommendations for late-night shenanigans? I have a 10 hour layover in HK before catching my flight to Kuala Lumpur then after that weekend, I’m back in HK to explore places like Tim Ho Wan.

        January 16, 2015
        • Well, I’m old and crusty now, so don’t go out too much at night, 😉 but last time we were there, we walked through Lan Kwai Fong area. It was crazy with bars, expats out on the street drinking…. might wanna check that out…

          January 16, 2015
  4. Trying a Michelin star restaurant is in my bucket list. I love this affordable idea 🙂 When would be to show up early and show up late?

    January 15, 2015
    • It was a fabulous way to try a Michelin starred resto! 🙂 Hmm, dim sum is considered breakfast, so I’d say right when they open (or even a little before depending on which location), and after typical breakfast hours. I read some reviews on Tripadvisor where people said they arrived around 1:30 and only waited 10-15 minutes…

      January 15, 2015
  5. I went here last year too…I would go back to Hong Kong JUST to eat there again!! So delicious and cheap.

    January 15, 2015
    • I honestly couldn’t believe just how cheap it was!! I wish I’d been able to eat more, but I was totally maxed out with $5. 😉

      January 15, 2015
  6. OMG – Hong Kong is not that far away from us so maybe we HAVE to make a trip there just for these! We LOOOOOOVE dumplings – so cheap and tasty makes us happy 🙂

    January 15, 2015
    • There’s a serious lack of quality dim sum here in Korea, so when I get really desperate, I book a flight to Hong Kong to get me some. Haha! You guys should definitely make a trip! 😀

      January 16, 2015
  7. My mum took me here a few years ago. I was pretty impressed but we had to queue for ages!

    January 18, 2015
    • I can only imagine how crazy the lines must’ve been after the Michelin star was awarded. I feel lucky that we didn’t have to wait at all!! 🙂

      January 18, 2015
  8. Oh my! I would love to try it!!

    January 19, 2015
  9. Kan #

    My thoughts exactly. That char siu bao is definitely very good… but several other places offer something similar. It’s the price which makes it really great at THW. I love those beancurd sheet covered beef balls too. I always order those!

    January 30, 2015
    • The standout for me was definitely the beef balls – I haven’t had them quite like that, anywhere else… I wish had more appetite to try other stuff on the menu, it was so cheap! Next time… 😀

      February 2, 2015
  10. I wouldn’t recommend to go to Tim Ho Wan in IFC Mall/Airport Express Station – that place has no good atmosphere. The one around Prince Edward Station (the original one) is better, but there are definitely many other Dim Sum places not as hyped, but providing good quality dim sum without the queues and also for cheap prices. As visitor, you just have to be lucky to discover those places. A good alternative, though also quite popular, is “One Dim Sum” in the same area. Cheers, Dennis

    September 13, 2017
    • Heh heh I’m not sure which location we went to! I stayed with a friend in HK, so we just went to whichever one was closest to her house – but yeah wherever we were, there wasn’t much atmosphere. I will def check out One Dim Sum next time I’m in HK though…do they have other locations?

      September 19, 2017

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