June 25, 2012

Hong Kong: Tim Ho Wan

Many have extolled the dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. Opened by a former chef at Lung King Heen, you can expect the bill to work out to around just HKD60 a head. No surprise then, that the queues here have been said to snake for hours Being kiasu, I parked myself behind a family of Chinese tourists in front of its Mongkok outlet 45 minutes before it opened its shutters. And I visited Tim Ho Wan on a weekday- I would have woken up even earlier to chope a place in the first seating otherwise.

Once you're (finally!) in the restaurant, do yourself a favor and order multiple servings of the signature baked BBQ pork buns. These two-bite-sized morsels are encrusted with a crunchy, sugary polo bun-like exterior, stuffed with a juicy char siew filling. Three forks up!
A stalwart staple of dim sum restaurants, the har gao served here lives up to expectations with fresh, succulent prawns clad in delicate and impeccably thin and elastic skins.
The steamed rice rolls are also worth a try- thin and slippery smooth with just the right amount of chew. If you're not visiting Hong Kong soon, fret not, you can get equally good ones at Freshly Made Chee Cheong Fun at Old Airport Road Food Centre.
A solid rendition of steamed spare ribs in black bean sauce.CIMG5329e
Many places serve turnip cakes that contain more rice flour than lo bak, but this certainly wasn't the case for the meltingly soft and smooth ones dished up here. If only they were more crisp!
I didn't particularly like the steamed dumplings in chiu chow style 潮州蒸粉果, though there was nothing to fault about the the thin, gummy skin and crunchy chestnut and peanut filings.
  Steamed custard pau
  I'm not a big fan of steamed chicken feet or beef balls but they were both remarkably tender, and my mum ordered seconds of the former. I liked how fluffy the custard pau and steamed egg cake were, but the dessert not to miss would be the wolfberry and osmanthus jelly 杞子桂花糕. Listed on the menu as tonic medlar & petal cake, this refreshing floral jelly did a fantastic job of cleansing the palate.
Bookmark Tim Ho Wan down if you're looking for an affordable and reliable dim sum experience, but I'm not sure if it's worth queuing up three hours for. While the food here was well-executed, I can't say that I was blown away by my dining experience.

On a side note, apologies for my embarrassingly long backlog, but I will try to clear my Hong Kong posts to help fellow foodies in their gastronomic expeditions!

Tim Ho Wan
Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok
Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily
Tel: +854 2332 2896

June 2, 2012

The Black Sheep Café

The Black Sheep Café lives up to its name: who would have expected to find good French food inside a cozy shophouse-restaurant along Mayo Street in Little India helmed by an Indian chef? Although the limited menu offers a selection of only five main courses, Chef Ratha's cooking has found a following amongst fellow floggers.
the black sheep cafe
Warm and chewy bread to start off the meal.
 bread and butter @ black sheep cafe
I initially planned to order the duck confit but I eventually fell for the lure of the crispy pork cheeks. Although the pan-seared morsels weren't as unctuously soft as Santouka's braised tokusen toruniku, they were meltingly tender nonetheless. The slight gaminess of the jowl was smartly countered by pairing it with a sweet orange glaze. T'was even better than the duck confit in my opinion!
crispy pork cheeks @ black sheep cafe
My friend had the duck confit ($22.50++), which was indeed as crisp and tender as many reviews claim. The Asian-inspired bistro mainstay was accompanied by mango relish, apple rosti and salad which helped to cut the fattiness of the meat.
duck confit @ black sheep cafe
Moving on to the mandatory desserts, the towering Kahlua soufflé ($10) was a sight to behold. Lightly infused with coffee liqueur, it was as light and airy as it looked and contrasted well with the accompanying scoop of cold mocha ice cream.
kahlua souffle @ black sheep cafe
The amicable chef offered us tiramisu on the house in exchange for our comments as he wished to refine his recipe for the dessert. This was equally worthy: we were both pleased with its light and smooth mascarpone and robust espresso flavor. My only gripes were that the sponge fingers were slightly oversoaked and that there was slightly too much cocoa powder. Being a fan of boozy tiramisu, I wouldn't have minded if the dessert came with a stronger dose of alcohol as well.
tiramisu @ black sheep cafe
The Black Sheep Café is definitely the place to go for good and inexpensive French food. Do note that they are only open for lunch on Saturdays at the moment.
the black sheep cafe
35 Mayo Street
Opening hours: 6pm-11pm (Mon-Fri), 12pm-3pm and 6pm-11pm (Sat), closed on Sundays