Melbourne food: Tim Ho Wan

Melbourne food: Tim Ho Wan

When a slice of a Michelin-starred enterprise arrives, you’ll bet Melbournians will be lining up. Tim Ho Wan was set to open early last year but almost a year later did the doors finally open. Opened in 2009 in Hong Kong, the first Tim Ho Wan earned its Michelin star in 2010, expanded into five restaurants in Hong Kong, and in more recent years has opened shop in other south-east Asian countries. There are already four in Sydney but their first shop opened in Melbourne in March. Literally translated, “Tim Ho Wan” means something along the lines of “add good luck” (even though I always thought it was someone’s name, and I nicknamed them “Tim”).

At midday, there was a huge line outside, snaking through the arcade (I couldn’t really see the end of the line, in fact). I went with people who were acquainted with someone in Tim Ho Wan – I was lucky enough to tag along. For that reason, I cannot be certain we might have been treated with more care. The service we received was attentive, but quick and efficient as it should be for dim sum. The restaurant is not small but also not big, with very simple decor and table and seats. Customers fill out their order on a checklist, the staff confirms the order and then the dishes come out. It’s all dim sum dishes but the atmosphere is less “yum cha”.

tim ho wan menu

(Click to enlarge)

Thankfully the food didn’t all come at once and were decently staggered. Several dishes might come out of the kitchen at once but we were able to work through them and keep up. Portions were dim sum sized but prices much higher. While the food usually tastes identical at most dim sum restaurants (at least here in Melbourne), it was clear to me that they make their own food and had some unique recipes. Everything tasted just a little bit different to everywhere else. 25 items is rather low for dim sum, but if care is taken for each dish and prepared in house, then indeed they stand out from the rest.

We managed to try just about every dish! My highlights included the famous baked bun with BBQ pork and spinach dumpling with shrimp. Some more “abnormal” ones in the world of dim sum were too weird for me, like the vermicelli roll with sesame sauce.

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Beef ball with beancurd skin

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Vermicelli roll with sesame sauce

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Glutinous rice in lotus leaf

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Vermicelli rice with shrimp

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Prawn dumpling

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Pork dumpling with shrimp

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Baked bun with BBQ pork

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Poached fresh seasonal vegetables

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Steamed egg cake

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Braised chicken feet with abalone sauce

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Spring roll with egg white

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Spinach dumpling with shrimp

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Beancurd spring roll with pork and shrimp

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Wasabi salad prawn dumpling

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Pork rib with black bean sauce

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Tonic medlar & Osmanthus cake

Tim Ho Wan is every bit a dim sum restaurant. It’s noisy, there are people everywhere and it’s fast paced. That’s how it should be. The dim sum is quite good (just a little bit different and a little bit refined), and I think this is reflected in the higher prices. Australia doesn’t have a Michelin guide so the hype (and long lines) for this Tim Ho Wan offspring will certainly last a long time.

Tim Ho Wan
206 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000
10:00am – 10:00pm
Tim Ho Wan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne: Autumn in the Dandenong Ranges

Melbourne: Autumn in the Dandenong Ranges

In the middle of April, we drove up to the Dandenong Ranges for half a day. We saw a lot of really amazing autumn foliage, athough we were still too early or too late for many trees.

Our first stop was the George Tindale Memorial Parks. There’s a giant rock perched on top of another rock, and you can actually push the top rock so it (very slowly) spins! T shocked the unsuspecting me when he gave a mighty push and it started moving.

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Because the back of my jumper was floral, we tried to see if I could outdo the gardens.

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Jumper: Marcs

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Skirt: Country Road

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Shoes: Ziera (my review)

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The unassuming clouds in the sky suddenly turned into angry dark clouds. The sunshine went away and the skies poured heavily for a good twenty minutes. Luckily we made it to the car in time, and waited in the car for the rain to ease. We then drove a few minutes to Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, which we had visited two years ago during autumn. It was incredibly foggy and wet now, but at least there was only drizzle for the rest of the day.

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We were definitely too early for the lake, which is surrounded by golden leaves at the right time in autumn. I distinctly remember that two years prior, we were too late and all the trees had lost their leaves.

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Next we drove ten or so minutes to the National Rhododendron Gardens, which we had visited the prior year but during spring.

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The above totally reminded me of three woolly mammoths!

The cherry tree grove was also really beautiful, with the path lined on either side by a long row of trees starting to turn orange. We had visited this park primarily to view the cherry blossoms last spring, but had failed miserably to visit at the right time (we were way too late) and only had naked branches to observe.

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T took a lot of sneaky photos of me (probably to entertain himself while patiently waiting for me taking photos) that he’s very amused by. He mentioned that while carrying the bright blue umbrella, I contrasted really nicely against the surroundings (it wasn’t even my umbrella, I swapped my smaller black umbrella with him!). This will be T’s first and definitely not last contribution to the blog.

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Food lately: April 2016

Here’s another installment of my favourite dishes recently. There weren’t that many stars last month though, so this was a bit of a stretch.

food bar liberty salt pepper vegetables

Salt & Pepper Vegetables (Bar Liberty, Fitzroy)

I know the name sounds really boring, but these were understated and incredible! Thin slices of vegetable (baby corn, eggplant, tomato and others) were deep fried in the most amazingly light and crispy batter (think of tempura but taken up five notches!) with a salty and peppery kick. The vegetable housed inside was still incredibly fresh and flavoursome.

food lune croissanterie plain croissant

Croissant – Traditional French croissant, prepared over 3 days (Lune Croissanterie, Fitzroy)

I already wrote about my experience and a review of Lune here. The plain croissant was without doubt my favourite. Crispy on the outside, the inside had perfectly crafted layers that were beautifully buttery and flaky. It was all baked to perfection.

food tim ho wan melbourne baked bun with bbq pork

Baked bun with BBQ pork (Tim Ho Wan, Melbourne)

I still prefer the normal Char Siu Bao/steamed BBQ pork buns to these sweeter baked versions, but I must say these were delicious. They were slightly crispy on the outside, fluffy inside and had a generous filling of Cantonese BBQ pork that just ooze out. They were not overly sweet, and a great sweet baked version of the yum cha classic.

Melbourne food: Lune Croissanterie (my experience)

Melbourne food: Lune Croissanterie (my experience)

This is a story about bad timing.

Two Fridays ago, T’s cousin showed me pictures of pastries from a few bakeries she’d taken to work. I only remembered one name – Lune. I wrote it down on my phone, looked them up a few days later, saw they made croissants and told T I wanted to go the next Sunday.

A day later, The New York Times published an article about whether the best croissants in the world are in Australia, which was of course picked up locally and just about everyone ran an article. Of course it was Lune Croissanterie. (Side note: NYT started the article at the end of 2014 when Lune was still in Elwood.)

melbourne lune croissanterie

I usually do more research for places I want to visit, but this time I just browsed their menu and looked at some pictures. I was planning to just rock up around lunch time (HAH!). I hadn’t read the reviews to realise its cult following, how there were lines before opening, how it was laughable to expect to find much of, if any, selection available by midday! In a way, it opened my eyes to realise that in order to get my hands on any of these croissants, there would need to be some earlier-than-normal rising on the weekend, and definitely some queueing (which I hate, by the way). But this would now be amplified as the news created even more hype.

So I told T we would go ahead and visit that Sunday. But we would get up quite a bit earlier than usual, and we would queue. Surely if we got there before 9am, we wouldn’t be waiting for more than an hour. Surely! In fact while estimating waiting times and at which point enough would be enough, T said “Melbourne wouldn’t tolerate lines over two hours!” On weekends, Lune opens at 8am. We arrived at 8:50am, joining the strong queue that snaked down the little (and very quiet) Fitzroy block.

The first hour came and went. The line moved slowly. The smell of croissants wafted in the air. I got hungry. The second hour also came and went. We had turned the corner at least, and were nearing the entrance (where the line continues up to the counter). A staff member came out to say we (the section of the queue we were in) would probably get almond croissants as there were heaps of that still left, but other selections were dwindling or gone. He would go and tell the rest of the line that there was 100% not going to be anything left for them. They remained in line nonetheless.

We continued to edge slowly to the counter, while we eyed the trays of croissants steadily disappearing. There was a lady in front of us. In front of her there were three people. When they got to the counter, there were exactly three left and they decided to be fair and each take one. I don’t even know which flavour it was! It was 11:30am and finally the news spread and everyone gave up and left.

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I had been waiting for 2 hours 40 minutes and missed out on something – anything, by two customers! I was a little bit distraught (T might say otherwise… something about PTSD…).

I am also stubborn. So I decided to go back even earlier, on a weekday before work. On weekdays, Lune opens at 7:30am, and I figured the earliness coupled with it being a weekday (how many people would want to be late to work?) would swing things in my favour. T kindly agreed to join me!

The night before my big early rise to conquer Lune, I actually dreamt of visiting and succeeding in getting everything I wanted. I could take that to have some deep meaning of envisioning and success… or I could take it to mean I was very fixated on those croissants and possibly hungry. T found this hilarious.

We arrived at 7am, to join a respectable queue, probably a quarter the queue on Sunday. At 7:30am when the doors open (not that we could see, since we were around the corner), the line shifted towards the counter and we moved all the way to the entrance door. Twenty minutes later we made our orders, having long decided what we were eating ourselves and what we were giving to family. Altogether we bought ten pastries and ate three of them in the store.

lune croissanterie menu

melbourne lune croissanterie

melbourne lune croissanterie

melbourne lune croissanterie

The staff were really nice, and as efficient as possible fulfilling customers’ orders. Some people would have several boxes. The store is actually huge, and absolutely retains its warehouse look and feel, but is minimalistic and clean, with a cool light design over the pastry-making glass box. There’s one bench on the side which probably seats half a dozen people. Then there are some benches with stone squares to use as tables. It’s an interesting non-use of a lot of spare space, but few people seem to sit anyway. I think it would be funny if they let the line circle the store twice instead, haha!

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(Croissant – Traditional French croissant, prepared over 3 days)

melbourne lune croissanterie pain au chocolat

(Pain au Chocolat – Traditional chocolate croissant, with organic dry chocolate batons)

melbourne lune croissanterie ham gruyere croissant

(Ham & Gruyere – A croissant baked fresh with a filling of shaved ham, Swiss Gruyere and seeded mustard)

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(Almond twice baked – The original croissant aux Amandes, prepared with almond frangipane and garnished with a healthy amount of flaked almonds)

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(Lemon Curd cruffin – House made lemon curd, citrus sugar and candied lemon zest)

The pastries are really good. I hold the standard at the plain croissant, which was incredibly flaky, beautifully buttery and crispy on the outside – perfectly baked (and so tall!). The pastry layers were also really well defined and just beautifully crafted. Everything is beautifully crafted. The twice-baked almond croissant was too sweet inside and I’m sorry to say I’m not a fan. The lemon curd cruffin was my favourite sweet pastry – perhaps a tad too sweet on its own for some people but still wonderfully tasty with a stunning lemon curd inside. I would recommend the plain croissant over the others though because that’s the one that showcases Lune’s delicacy and craftsmanship of croissants without all the other flavours and ingredients. Other than that the lemon curd cruffin is definitely my other favourite.

When we left some 20 minutes later, two pastries were already sold out!!! The craziness!

In summary (TL;DNR)

The pastries are really good and well crafted. I honestly cannot fathom anything worth lining up for so long though. I’m glad I went. It was character building, a “great experience”. On weekends, don’t bother lining up after 8:30am. For a good selection, joining the queue at opening time probably isn’t even good enough. Then it’s a matter of how much weekend sleep you want to sacrifice. I bet colder and rainier weather would ease the queuing at least somewhat. On weekdays, 7am arrival will likely ensure full selection availability and waits up to but not more than an hour. If not, maybe the hype will cool down a bit in a few months… Good luck.

Lune Croissantie
119 Rose Street, Fitzroy 3065
Thu-Fri 7:30am – 3:00pm, Sat-Sun 8:00am – 3:00pm
Lune Croissanterie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne: Autumn street snaps

We went to have brunch at Stables of Como in South Yarra, which was a really beautiful cafe but the food was average at best. We actually discovered this beautiful suburban street nearby lined with adorable Ornamental Pear trees that were still all green but with vibrant red tops. It was also a beautiful day and this street just made me so happy.

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melbourne autumn

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melbourne autumn

Doesn’t that look like an emoji face :O?

I think next weekend we are planning to head to the Dandenong Mountains and check out the autumnal situation. Hopefully we aren’t too late!