I love dim sum. Isn’t it wonderful to have so many different bite-sized delicacies at one meal? It’s like a buffet of your favourite dishes without the risk of breaking your weighing machine when you next step on it. Almost everybody seems to agree with me, too, because finding a poorly-rated dim sum restaurant turned out to be quite difficult. However, I finally came across Hong Kong Dim Sum Shop in Fortune Centre.
It has a dismal 2.9 rating from 155 users at time of writing, with the feedback skewed severely towards 1-star ratings. Wow. Could a restaurant actually spoil my love of dim sum? I made my way to Fortune Centre to find out.
Hong Kong Dim Sum Shop is on the ground floor with some of the seating spilling over onto the aisle between the shops. I try to keep ambience out of the equation as much as possible but I will mention that the place does have a very bo chap vibe to it.
What I tried at Hong Kong Dim Sum Shop
We started with the Charcoal Egg Tart (3pcs) (S$5.40) because I love them. The contrast between the vibrant yellow and deep black, as well as the textural differences – smooth and sweet versus crumbly and savoury – have been a favourite of mine since I was a kid.
That was what I was anticipating when I bit into the first one. Sheer disappointment.
There was none of that lovely play of contrasts that make charcoal egg tarts so popular. Instead, there was a weird consistency that robbed the tart of its inherent appeal. Rather than an egg tart, it seemed I was chewing on a biscuit with some sweetish topping. Hard ‘no’ here.
The Steam Prawn Dumplings “Har Kau” (4pcs) (S$7.80) were next. They seemed rather appealing as they sat glistening in the bamboo steamer basket. Paying no heed to the ‘Once bitten twice shy’ adage cautioning me after the egg tart debacle, I happily indulged. Disappointment.
Har kau shrimp filling is supposed to be soft and juicy but what I got was firm and tasteless. Really, I could not even tell whether it was shrimp.
Much more cautious now, I approached the Rosey Wine Yummy BBQ Pork Bun (3pcs) (S$5.40) tentatively.
I pulled one apart with my fingers. Unlike the picture in the menu where the filling is practically bursting forth, there was but a meagre smear of pork inside. On the other hand, the ‘yummy’ description in the name was accurate here. I did enjoy the taste of the bbq pork but left the fluffy white shells untouched.
Rosey Wine Yummy BBQ Pork Bun was probably the best-tasting item we tried, which is really a participation trophy statement.
Unfortunately, it was followed by the Vermicelli Roll with BBQ Pork (S$6.50). I don’t know what was happening here but I take the sparse filling as a positive – it seemed it was just bits of leftover meat and fat throwing between the vermicelli sheets.
The typical glistening appearance of the vermicelli rolls was seriously lacking here. What a turn off. Neither my dining partner nor I could take more than 2 bites each; 1 to taste and the other to confirm.
The Steam Diced Mushroom Dumpling (3pcs) (S$4.80) did somewhat redeem a virtually irredeemable meal.
Part of that was their visual appeal – the rich array of colours and textures visible through the translucent skin was appetising. Taste-wise, it was about level with the pork buns. If you like shiitake mushrooms, this at least gives you a real taste.
Thus came the end of a tasting that really shook me.
One of the highlights of this Worst series has been the number of places I’ve found that outperform their online rating. No, that’s not because diners unfairly rated the stall or restaurant but rather because the vendors listened to feedback, learned where they fell short, and changed things for the better.
At the moment, it seems that Hong Kong Dim Sum Shop has not.
It’s hard to tell for sure but I believe the dim sum are made well in advance in large batches and what we got were leftovers going through the cycle. That would explain the lack of taste and flavour. The alternative explanation is a bad recipe and/or cook. Equally bad.
The lady who works at Hong Kong Dim Sum Shop is very polite and friendly, and she works hard at her job. But there is no denying that the food is a severe letdown. Had the prices been reasonable, I would have been eager to give Hong Kong Dim Sum Shop as much leeway as possible.
Considering the S$35 (including service charge and GST) cost of my meal (at a casual stall), though, I have to conclude that this really is the worst dim sum restaurant that I have tried.
Expected damage: S$17 – S$25 per pax