You know the disappointment you feel when a sequel to a movie just does not live up to the original? Dining at Tim Ho Wan in Singapore was a very similar experience.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the very cheap meal at the Michelin starred outlet in Sham Shui Po we just had to have those delicious pork buns again. As we missed out going to the IFC outlet in Hong Kong, Singapore was our last chance of having that heavenly dish one last time before returning to Perth. With this in mind, Godma, Uncle Vince, Alissa and I headed out to the Orchard Road store for just before opening on Christmas Day to try and beat the long queues that had become such a fixture at these Singapore branches that they even had to stop taking takeaway orders to meet demand.
Such is the Singaporean love of queueing that there was already a snaking queue of patient diners by the time we arrived.
Being organised, the staff gave us the order form to fill out as we waited. We didn't have to wait long however -thankfully many of those ahead of us were waiting for latecomers, and we were ushered ahead to be part of the first service.
Godma and Uncle Vince had the congee, however as I did not try it I cannot comment.
The first dish I did try was the siu mei. These looked larger than what I remembered from Tim Ho Wan, and unfortunately served as the first sign that things here were not 100% faithful to the Hong Kong store. Where the siu mei in Hong Kong had been mixed together so well that it almost felt like it had become one meat, these more closely resembled Crystal Jade's, right down to the mushroom inside and the fact it didn't hold perfectly together. It was okay, but I've had far better. Definitely not Michelin level.
Next up came the dish we came for - their famous Char Siu Bao. This thankfully was much more faithful to the Hong Kong original, though I felt it was perhaps a bit too saucy when compared to what we had at Sham Shui Po. Still, close enough that I was happy to get to eat these again.
The chicken feet again did not compare. Where the chilli kick permeated the meat in Hong Kong, the Singapore version was much more ordinary. I've had better in Singapore and Perth.
Thankfully, the har gao held up to the standard set in Hong Kong. These were as juicy and tasty as I remembered them.
The Teochew-style dumplings were again faithful replicas of the excellent originals in Hong Kong. Godma had been a bit disappointed that by some of the first few dishes and is not a fan of these normally, but had to admit that these were very nice.
Even though it was a signature dish, we had not had the fried carrot cake in Hong Kong. Here marketed as one of their 'Four Heavenly Kings (along with the Char Siu Bao and pig's liver chee cheong fun), the fried carrot cake was of an excellent standard with a nice crispy outer layer and a lovely soft texture in the middle.
The absolute worst dish by a long shot was the Lo Mai Gai. It wasn't just a lesser version of the Sham Shui Po dish - it was so bad it bore little resemblance.
Where I praised the Hong Kong version for not being too sticky, the Lo Mai Gai here was overly wet and did not taste very nice at all. We didn't even finish it.
The pig's liver chee cheong fun redeemed the store somewhat, being a very faithful representation of the delicious dish we had in Hong Kong.
Likewise, if they'd stuffed up the jelly it would have been almost laughable. Thankfully the Osmanthus Jelly here was just as refreshing as we remembered it.
The Verdict: Very Good
It wasn't a Phantom Menace or Matrix sequel level disaster, but it wasn't a worthy sequel either. Much of the hype in Singapore seems to be based on Tim Ho Wan's Michelin star rating, and Singaporeans seem to be gobbling up the marketing without realising that none of the branches in Singapore have Michelin stars, and even then only two of the branches Hong Kong have that distinction. Plus, Tim Ho Wan's claim to fame is that its the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world, and as the bill was at least 50% more than what we paid at the Michelin starred Sham Shui Po I couldn't help but feel a bit ripped off. Still, there are some items that reflect Tim Ho Wan's reputation for excellence, and I was happy to have had those buns one more time. I would probably come back for those again, however Tim Ho Wan in Singapore is not worth queuing up more than 15 minutes for...
...like these people were doing...