Friday, May 23, 2014

My First 'Michelin Star' Experience: Tim Ho Wan Westgate Singapore

Tim Ho Wan @ Westgate

My gourmet trail so far during this trip in Singapore hasn't been very fortunate. I made it a point to have the best Hokkien Prawn Mee in Singapore, took the trouble to make 3 separate trips to have them but all ended in disappointment. But heck, let's just focus on the good parts ya?

Despite my love of food, Michelin-star-endorsed food had never crossed my path before, largely because they are either not easily available in my countries of residence or because they were simply beyond my comfort zone in terms of price/length of queue. Fortunately, the much-maligned Tim Ho Wan opened a branch at Westgate, which also happened to have a very short queue when we passed by, so I had to give it a try.

From all I had gathered online regarding the Tim Ho Wan in Singapore, I had little or no expectations. "Not worth the queue", "Much worse than the original in Hong Kong", "Nothing spectacular" are the usual comments from all my friends. However, I took all these with a pinch of salt. For me, Tim Sum can always be fresh, delicious and satisfying, but never spectacular, all those who expected to go "Wah Lau Eh" on a piece of "Har Kau" because of a Michelin star are sure to be disappointed, because the level of expectation has been misplaced in the first place.

Congee with century egg

Alas, the lunch did not start so well after all. The congee tasted pretty good, but it's so thick that you had to literally yank the congee off the spoon, and it technically turned into a glue when it cooled. Wouldn't order it again.

Shrimp Siew Mai
Steamed rice with chicken and chinese sausage
Siew Mai and steamed rice "盅仔饭" with chicken are both not considered Tim Ho Wan's signatures, but they both tasted really really fresh and good. I would consider them better than the average plate you can get in other restaurants.

So now for 3 of the 4 Tim Ho Wan signatures:

Fried carrot cake

This fried carrot cake was, for me at least, one of the nicest I have ever eaten (and trust me, I have eaten a lot). It's extremely soft while still holding its shape when you pick it up with your chopsticks. I believe its structural strength has been given by the large amount of radish shreds it holds. Surely a must-try.

Chee Cheong Fun with Liver
It's actually quite surprising that one of the 4 best dishes at Tim Ho Wan was actually a Chee Cheong Fun stuffed with liver (the pig kind, not the goose kind). They will do very well to make me like this dish, given the fact that liver has always been one of my least favourite innards, and as expected, I didn't. I will only recommend this dish to pure liver lovers.

BBQ Pork Polo Bao

Ok everyone take a deep breath and say with me..... Wah.... Lau..... Eh!

I have told people that as long as Tim Ho Wan can wow me with 1 dish and the rest of the dishes taste better than average, I would be suitably impressed. The next time you go to Tim Ho Wan, please order its BBQ Pork Polo Buns, take one in your hand and bite in when it's hot. Beyond the thin and crispy sweet milk crust will be a piping hot pouch which pops as it breaks, letting loose a gush of hot air trapped inside then a goo of runny BBQ pork gravy. If the same dish is even nicer in Tim Ho Wan's original shop in Hong Kong, I can imagine the Michelin star judges (especially the Caucasian ones who do not frequently eat this) giving their endorsement just because of the sheer excellence of this humble Bun.

Ok verdict from the Stranger in Bangkok:

I am not used to queuing for food, so no, Tim Ho Wan is not worth a long wait. However, it serves better-than-average Tim Sum coupled with a couple of outstanding dishes, so if there is little or no queue (eg. less than 15 minutes wait), I will say it is a must-try if you are a Tim Sum lover like me, just don't let the supposed Michelin-star reputation skew your expectations and affect your enjoyment.

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