Tim Ho Wan Chatswood - City Lunch Australia 28 June 2015

A collage by Ms Zoe Yu.

We missed Angie in Castlehill and Michael in Nagambie.  We did continue our series of City Lunch Australia commercial outlet gatherings outside the Sydney CBD this year after gathering at Kin by US and the Kopi Shop.  The aim was to utilise the private dining room facility (PDR) at the first Tim Ho Wan outlet in Australia.  There were rules, every one had to be present at the same time before we were seated by THW, there was the usual minimum spend and we only had two hours utilisation of the room, which did not have a door.  However it was lovely not to have to queue for a change as we were shown into our booked room not long after we all arrived.

Sari, Jacob, Edwin and the one with full concentration facilitating order - Chip.

THW has an optimally sized menu, printed with colour and also used as a serving mat in Asian style.  Like Papa Rich, you tick against the menu dish codes and that forms the basis of a  no-fuss invoice.  In yum cha and Japanese fashion, there are miniature photos of each dish, ranging in price from AUD 5.80 to 8.80.  It was unanimous that we left out the steamed egg cake slices (Kai Tan Ko in Cantonese), which is one of the so-called "four Heavenly Kings" of THW offerings.  We almost ordered a sample of each of the THW menu items, without also selecting the poached  seasonal vegetables,  the three rice variations, spring rolls with egg whites, two vermicelli roll creations and the two dessert choices.

The queue lines on Sunday afternoon.

The winning preference for the group was of course the baked marinated pork buns, with the tender to the bite full flavoured Char Siew fillings inside.  Over all, we ordered eight serves of this, with three buns in one serve.   Maybe the congee with bits of century preserved egg,  lean pork slices, julienned ginger and salted egg was the last preferred by this group.

Siew Mai pretty!

Focus group.

Dee found the vermicelli rolls with sesame seed sauce (Chee Ma Cheong Fun)outstanding - this can be a difficult dish to prepare as the overall effect on the palate depends on the quality of the rolls and sauce - and nothing else!  Sally pointed out the Worcestershire sauce sitting in the sauce tray waiting to be used with the shrimp filled beancurd skin wrapped deep fried rolls.  Chip then reminded us about the Hainan cuisine available on Penang Island.  Raymond liked the Siew Mai and Har Gou for their quality.  I say the pork ribs in black bean sauce were pretty standard this afternoon.

The large Lazy Susan, with call button attached.

We were not totally obsessed on food, as there was a lively and informative conversation on the latest Apple watch, which Edwin was wearing and kindly showed us.  There was the banter about Bob's hair style, of which Bob was sporting about.  Chip's relocation to Adelaide in the coming weeks touched upon the choice of removalists.  We reconfirmed about gathering at Sari and Jacob's newly built house by this coming weekend.   Zoe and Raymond has celebrated 25 years of wedded bliss two days before.  Above the table were three mirror reflective lamp shades, which gave a bit of festivity to this end of financial year party.  City Lunch Australia commenced as informal gatherings for lunch on working days.

The women of City Lunch Australia.

Chatswood can be  a vehicle parking nightmare.  Five of us took public transport and the rest used private vehicles, with two fortunately finding a good spot on nearby Railway Street.  Some of  us took a walk around the evolving development of District Dining, lamenting the still to be opened Ipuudo restaurant there.  John and I were fascinated with the nearby Pishon Korean style cafe, offering unusual drinks like sweet potato latte.

Settling into the table.

Wasabi laced salad shrimp dumplings.

The THW food, once it first came out, rolled on consistently, amidst the various cluttered chop sticks (some used as serving utensils),  emptying plates and stacked bamboo baskets.  Surprisingly, we hardly dipped into any sauces, for the THW items were mostly delicately made and had fresh ingredients upper most in their preparation.  John mentioned that it was better to get to savour the original taste of the dishes sans the sauces.   The PDR table was not overly large and it did facilitate group conversation.

Beef balls wrapped with bean curd skin -   山竹牛肉球 water chestnuts, coriander, dried mandarin peel and Shaoxing wine bring up the taste.

Servings can be  relatively small - some expressed the opinion that except for a few outstanding dishes, the rest seemed pretty ordinary, with Sally indicating preference for the yum cha outlet in the Rhodes Shopping Centre.   Kevin reaffirmed his liking for the vermicelli rolled with pig's liver, the  steamed spinach and shrimp packed dumplings and the fish maw braised in a prawn stock paste.  Chip summed it up by observing the elegance and delicacy of most of the THW food in front of us.

Bob, Sally and Raymond  (left to right)

The tea provided at AUD2.50 per person was pretty ordinary although refillings were offered.    The THW staff pretty much responded only when you require and call them, without anyone checking on how the food so far served was going, as is practised in most Western styled restaurants.  We had to request the staff to provide a food scissors to help cut up some items for sharing.

They did pack up take away orders in neat containers and placed them in practical paper bags.  Billing was relatively efficient and painless with no administrative errors.  The staff did take the effort to say good bye.

Baked Char Siew buns, the signature dish of THW.

I found the pan fried turnip cake uplifting, light and not bogged down in an oily setting.  We had three servings of such variations like the goji berry anointed Siew Mai, wasabi topped salad prawn dumplings  and pork ribs with black bean sauce.   It was a good strategy to go slow with doubtful items, order surely tasty items early and leave out obvious no-nos.

Raymond, John, Dee and Zoe (left to right)

Each of us had a fun exercise in rating our individual impressions of the THW lunch, giving scores out of ten, ten being the best.  Service by the staff was generally more engaged with us as PDR guests when compared to sitting outside in the general dining area, with guest tables packed so close to each other.  Scores between 6.5 to eight were voiced.

Those who gave higher scores pointed out the efforts made by THW on presentation of the food, the attention on fresh ingredients used and the  choice of a  few outstanding items.  Lower scores were provided on account of the lack of variety of items, several items not tasting that much better than in other Dim Sum places around Australia and the small servings made.

Chicken feet, or lovingly known as golden phoenix claws, braised in abalone sauce.  Under the subdued lighting, the marinade seemed under whelming and it actually was in taste.

Dee did notice there was a difference in taste and texture  for an item or two between the Hong Kong and Chatswood outlets of THW.

Chip very usefully mentioned to me it is how THW continued to manage customer expectations, especially with the all the hype in the beginning.  Where to from here, Tim?

Outside the private dining room.

Tim Ho Wan Chatswood is located on an upper floor of District Dining, near the rail station on north shore Sydney.
Opening hours are daily from 10am to 9pm.  All day yum cha!
Photo credits in this blog post to Ms Zoe Yu, Mr Edwin Chee, Mr Bob Tang and Mr Kevin Yong.


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