206 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Remember when the signs for Tim Ho Wan first popped up on Bourke Street? The excitement for a Melbourne branch of the cheapest Michelin-Starred restaurant in the world was palpable, and everyone eagerly awaited the promised opening in August 2015. Well as we all know, August came and went, and it wasn’t until March of the following year that the restaurant opened with great fanfare, and the lines formed immediately.
Tim Ho Wan has come a long way since its beginnings as a grungy 20-seater hole-in-the-wall dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong. The Melbourne branch is slick, bright, and literally 6 times the size. The wait is anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes on a usual night, but if you rock up on Sunday like we did, you can expect a seat straight away.
For those of you expecting hollering middle-aged Asian ladies pushing trolleys that contain what seems like hundreds of varieties of dim sum, prepare to be disappointed. This menu is nothing if not concise at exactly 25 items and a few monthly specials, but all the favourites are there, including the famous Big Four Heavenly Kings of Tim Ho Wan.
We started with a few plates, made fresh to order. The first thing that struck me about the Vermicelli Roll With Shrimp ($7.8, 3pcs) is how small the serving was for the price – something that would unfortunately be a recurring theme throughout the meal. Taste-wise it was as good as you’d expect it to be, though I did find that there was a bit too much rice noodle, especially compared to the relatively small prawns wrapped inside.
Ah, the famous Baked Bun with BBQ Pork ($7.8, 3pcs) – the dish so synonymous with Tim Ho Wan that it may as well be the mascot. And these are really something very special.
What sets these apart is the pastry; instead of being steamed, these are baked with a sugary, crumbly crust that gives way to the traditional centre of saucy BBQ pork.
I really liked the Rice with Chicken, Sausage, and Mushroom ($8.5) – a comforting treat of sticky white rice, layered with chunks of chicken, Chinese sausage, and shiitake mushrooms for a triple whammy of umami.
One of my favourite things at yum cha is the Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce ($6.8). The ribs were tender and marinated in a rich and flavoursome black bean sauce, and I really appreciated the extra degree of spice, but once again, there was just too little of it.
Similarly good but not outstanding was the Beancurd Skin Roll with Pork and Shrimp ($6.8, 3pcs). Thin sheets of fried bean curd are draped around a filling of pork and shrimp to form tight cigars, and then steamed in a thick gravy.
To finish off, we had the impossibly tall Steamed Egg Cake ($5.8). Move over soufflé, because this warm sponge cake all but dissolves in the mouth, leaving only an aroma of egg yolks and brown sugar.
I have to admit that my feelings regarding Tim Ho Wan are a bit mixed. Empirically speaking, this is high-class yum cha that ranges from good to great, depending on what you order. Unfortunately we don’t live in a vacuum, and when you compare this to yum cha places around town, the portions turn small, the prices become exorbitant, and the food is only marginally better (if at all). After all that hype, I really wanted to love Tim Ho Wan, but I’m afraid I feel a bit let down.
Rating 12/20 – tim ho awwwww.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.