08 Mar Tim Ho Wan, Melbourne CBD
I must confess, I have an aversion to crowds and queues. I haven’t even been to Chin Chin *gasp*. Yes, you heard that right. So even though Tim Ho Wan was on my to-visit list months before it opened, I waited patiently until opening madness ebbed away. Before I knew it, a year had passed before I finally made it. I ended up visiting twice in the same week, thanks to a visiting overseas relative who desired yum cha before boarding their flight back to Asia. A bit of an odd request, but I wasn’t about to complain.
Tim Ho Wan has a succinct menu, supplemented by seasonal specials that are presented on a separate board. The ‘Big 4 Heavenly Kings’ are their speciality. We try three of them. The Pan-fried Turnip Cake could do with a bit more shrimp flavour, but the crisp outer surface is done well. On the inside it’s slightly chunky in texture, but soft and easy to eat. The light and fluffy Steamed Egg Cake is not as sweet as we thought it would be, and has a slight caramel flavour to it. The talk of the town are Tim Ho Wan’s Baked Buns with BBQ pork. The buns are crunchy, with a layer of sugary crispy bits on the outside. The thin bun encases a piping hot sweet BBQ pork filling. It’s a very textural eat, and I can see it’s widespread appeal. Definitely worth a try at least once, though as a non-sweet tooth myself I’m happy to substitute it for other dishes when I return.
There are standard dim sum on the menu, like har gao, spinach and prawn dumplings and cheong fan with a variety of fillings. Though smooth, we find the dumpling skins of the har gao are a little thick.
The beancurd skin roll with shrimp turns is one of the deep-fried dishes, the lightly crispy beancurd skin contrasting with the smooth shrimp paste filling. The little cubes of Golden Tofu are crunchy, airy and quite salty. Wasabi Salad Prawn Dumplings are striking in appearance. I would’ve liked the wasabi sauce to have more kick, but there’s still enough of it to add an interesting tanginess to liven up the prawn paste filling. Fish maw with prawn paste is an unusual dish. It’s smooth and gelatinous and difficult to pick up with chopsticks alone, but it also slips down the throat all too quickly, especially with the tasty, viscous sauce. You may find the thought of eating fish maw a bit confronting, but the dish is very good.
Another highlight is the rice with chicken, sausage and mushroom. It doesn’t sound like much, and it’s essentially a saucy rice dish, but the sauce and the added ingredients are flavoursome and it’s a comforting dish that would be particularly enjoyable during cooler weather.
We try a number of specials, and they all end up being our favourite dishes over the two visits. The lightly fried Tofu with Black Truffle has a slight crispiness on the outside, and is silky smooth in the middle. Small shavings of black truffle add a beautiful fragrance and earthy flavour, and the accompanying sauce is particularly moreish. The scallop ‘dumplings’, which sit on a few strips of tofu skin, are prawn and fish paste wrapped in seaweed, topped with little scallops and fried XO onion. They’re a tasty morsels. The oozy salted egg filling of the Gold-dusted Charcoal Lava Bun has the perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness, and ends the meal perfectly. One of the best lava buns I’ve had in a very long time.
Food is served quickly, and service is efficient, especially with the buzzers set into each table. Though I haven’t been to the original Michellin-starred venue Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan’s dim sum make for a solid yum cha experience in the CBD, and the specials are definitely worth looking into.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to Tim Ho Wan on one occasion. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.
Tim Ho Wan
206 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000