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Michelin-starred dim sum chain opens Phnom Penh branch

Customers dine at Tim Ho Wan, a branch of the famed Hong Kong-based dim sum restaurant, on Wednesday in Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall.
Customers dine at Tim Ho Wan, a branch of the famed Hong Kong-based dim sum restaurant, on Wednesday in Phnom Penh’s Aeon Mall. Hong Menea

Michelin-starred dim sum chain opens Phnom Penh branch

Tim Ho Wan, the famed Hong Kong-based dim sum chain, opened its first branch in Cambodia this week, drawing on its roots as the “world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant”.

The Chinese dim sum restaurant officially opened its branch in Aeon Mall on Tuesday after a five-day soft opening, and has been drawing thick crowds of dim sum aficionados – some 700 a day, according to its general manager.

“We’re full of customers all the time,” Chum Phirun, general manager of Tim Ho Wan Cambodia, said yesterday.

The Tim Ho Wan chain has come a long way since its founding in 2009 as a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Hong Kong’s bustling Mong Kok district. The original restaurant earned a Michelin star in 2010, and was at the time the least expensive Michelin-starred restaurant on the planet. The chain has grown quickly on this reputation, expanding to 45 locations in Asia, Australia and the US.

Highly anticipated openings in Singapore and New York saw huge queues, with customers waiting up to three hours for a table. The turnout has been strong, but far less intense at the 33-table Cambodian branch, Phirun said, noting that many Cambodians were not aware of the dim sum chain’s fame or the significance of a Michelin-star rating.

“In other countries, when customers see a hotel or restaurant with a Michelin star they already know the quality of the restaurant in terms of taste, services, hygiene, environment and other aspects,” he said.

“The income of Phnom Penh residents is growing rapidly and many people are now seeking hygenic, high-quality food, so we want to educate them on the advantage of a Michelin-starred restaurant like Tim Ho Wan.”

While Tim Ho Wan’s Aeon Mall restaurant does not have a Michelin star, two of the chain’s branches – both in Hong Kong – do.

The restaurant serves 24 varieties of dim sum priced modestly between $2.5 and $6 a dish, according to Phirun, who says there are plans to open two more branches in Phnom Penh next year.

Hak Lina, director of operations of Topaz restaurant, one of the capital’s most highly acclaimed restaurants, said the opening of a dim sum eatery backed by a Michelin star is a positive development for the Kingdom’s food and beverage sector.

To date, no restaurant in Cambodia has ever earned a Michelin star – though Topaz hopes to be the first. Hak said the restaurant, which frequently hosts visiting Michelin-star chefs, has also benefitted from the training these master chefs have provided to its staff.

“There are many terms and conditions to be awarded a Michelin-star restaurant and it is truly valuable to prepare for that,” she said.

“I believe that once there is a Michelin-star restaurant operating here, soon there will be Michelin two-star restaurants because everyone will seek to get [the rating] to attract customers.”

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