Famed Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan from Hong Kong will be opening its first overseas outpost at The Atrium@Orchard, Plaza Singapura’s new wing, in the middle of next month.

The 80-seat restaurant, which spans 2,300 sq ft, will be located on the ground floor, opposite coffee chain Starbucks.

A second outlet, which will take over the space formerly occupied by Swensen’s at ERA Centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 6, is slated to open in the third quarter of the year.

The plan, says Mr Harry Chua, who is backing the venture here, is to open a total of six outlets by the end of the year, staff and location permitting.

Singapore gets bite of Tim Ho Wan dim sum
Tim Ho Wan’s chef-owner Mak Kwai Pui (above) says freshness and no reheating are key to good dim sum.

The 66-year-old, who is executive chairman of Hersing Corporation, which owns companies such as real estate firms ERA Realty Network, was first introduced to the restaurant by his older brother Robert, 67, a Hong Kong-based media entrepreneur and producer, who dines there frequently.

The younger Mr Chua is collaborating with the dim sum restaurant’s chef-owner Mak Kwai Pui, 50, who runs four successful restaurants in Hong Kong, including ones at IFC Mall in Central and Sham Shui Po. The chef’s original outlet in Mongkok, which earned its first Michelin star in 2009, has since relocated to a different building in the same area.

Chef Mak’s outlet in Sham Shui Po is the only other outlet that has a Michelin star. The rest do not.

Chef Mak is no stranger to Singapore – he has been a guest chef in Singapore several times over the years, at restaurants such as Cassia at Capella Singapore and Resorts World Sentosa’s Feng Shui Inn.

He tells Life! that diners can expect the dim sum here to be authentic and of the same quality as in Hong Kong. Even the flour used to make his famed char siew buns is being imported from Hong Kong.

However, what will differ is the price. The dim sum here will be a tad more expensive than in Hong Kong, due to higher rental and labour costs.

In Hong Kong, for example, chef Mak’s signature char siew bun costs $1.10. The same bun here will cost slightly more – prices here are still being finalised – but will be priced below $2 each.

Diners can expect the price of food to be no more than 10 per cent higher than the price of dishes at other top dim sum restaurants in town, Mr Chua says.

There will be 28 items on the menu. The char siew bun aside, other signature dishes from chef Mak’s Hong Kong outlets that will be available here include ma lai gou, a fluffy steamed cake; lo bak gou, pan-fried turnip cake; and cheong fun or rice rolls with various fillings including pork liver, prawns and beef.

Chef Mak started making dim sum at the age of 15, honing his craft at restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Lung King Heen at Four Seasons Hotel. Ask him the secret behind his fine dim sum and he says is it all about the “freshness” of the ingredients and how soon it is served to diners after being cooked.

The idea that reheating spoils the flavour and texture of dim sum is something that chef Mak has had to drill into his long-time friend, chef Fung Kam Tim, 48, who will be helming Tim Ho Wan here.

The Hong Konger, who was formerly a dim sum chef at Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant in the Singapore Marriott Hotel, has been friends with chef Mak for over 20 years.

Of the chefs’ dim sum-making skills, chef Mak says that some are even more skilled than his chefs in Hong Kong. He says: “I am not worried about the quality at all, as long as we cook items only when customers place orders.”

There are plans for a central kitchen further down the road, although many items must still be made on site, chef Mak says.

Only dishes such as lo bak gou, ma lai gou, or part of the cooking processes, such as the frying and braising of phoenix claws, better known as chicken feet, can be done in central kitchens.

He says: “We cannot compromise on quality. We will cook to order, and serve it immediately, because when dim sum is cold, it is not as good to eat.”

This article was first run The Straits Times newspaper on March 29, 2013; read the full story at http://sph.straitstimes.com/archive/friday/premium/life/story/singapore-gets-bite-famous-dim-sum-20130329. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.