With no website, barely any social media presence, and not even a real signage at their door, I only discovered Hot Wheels Tea House through Keith’s blog entry on 365KW. This is the second child of Crystal Palace’s previous owner, Vicky, since she sold her original Chinese restaurant probably 2+ years ago. I was a supporter of Crystal Palace when they ran it, but CP has gone downhill since it was sold so I have stopped going. Hot Wheels Chinese Restaurant has been successful, given the vast amounts of good reviews I have heard. The Kitchener dim sum place is currently managed by Vicky’s husband (chef) and brother-in-law, while Vicky focuses on the newly established Tea House conveniently located in the heart of Uptown Waterloo.
Hot Wheels is more of a HK style “Tea House”, which is a direct translation of the most popular type of cafe in HK – the Cha Chaan Teng. The focus is not exactly on tea per se, but a wide variety of buns, snacks, and beverages which of course includes the famous HK milk tea.
HWTH was utterly empty when my sister, Xeo, and I visited. It was not surprisingly given that we visited at 3pm (neither lunch nor dinner), but I wonder if people actually know about this new cafe since they only have a small flip-board as their restaurant signage.
The interior is more posh and spacious than what I normally expect from Chinese restaurants.
Opening special – $1 each, all are made in-house. I was shocked as I had expected HWTH to have purchased them from T&T or something, but Vicky said that the buns would be stale by the time it arrives in Waterloo so she’d rather have the chef make them in-house.
Cha chaan teng serves a wide range of food, from steak to wonton noodles to curry to sandwiches, e.g. Hong Kong-style French toast.Both fast food and à-la-carte dishes are available. A big cha chaan teng often consists of three cooking places: a “water bar” which makes drinks, toast/sandwiches and instant noodles, a “noodle stall” which prepares Chiuchow-style noodles (including wonton noodles), and a kitchen for producing rice plates and other more expensive dishes.
Since HWTH does not have a website, here are the menus.
These are the rice and noodle dishes available. I noticed that this is actually a menu of “Chac’s Tea House”. Upon Googling, Chac’s Tea House is supposed to be at where Hot Wheels is currently. So, I assume either Chac’s closed down a long time ago and HWTH is reusing their menu, or Hot Wheels was supposed to be named Chac’s but they decided to stick with Hot Wheels instead. Weird, I will ask Vicky the next time I visit.
On the Table for Maple:
- Five Spiced Pork Belly Steamed Bao Combo ($5.96)
- Peking Duck Steamed Bao Combo ($5.96)
- 8 Asian Buns ($1 each)
Hong Kong-style milk tea is a beverage originating from Hong Kong consisting of black tea with evaporated milk or condensed milk. It is usually part of lunch in Hong Kong tea culture. Although originating from Hong Kong, it is also frequently found overseas in restaurants serving Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong-style western cuisine. In the show Top Eat 100 aired on 4 February 2012, Hong Kong-style milk tea is ranked number 4 in Hong Kong cuisines and Hong Kongers consume a total of 900 million glasses/cups a year.
Each combo comes with a beverage and salad of Caesar & mango. Beverage can be upgraded to bubbletea for an extra dollar.
After my disappointing experience with the oh-so-famous $5/pork bun at Momofuku in both NYC and Toronto, I was so excited to try the buns at HWTH. Steamed buns are all made in-house as well. I LOVE how I could actually wrap everything in the bun for one satisfying bite. It seems to be the trend nowadays to overfill everything. The Momofuku buns were filled with two fatty pork pieces and drips all over when I tried to squish it together for a bite. Overfilled tacos, deconstructed desserts, towering burgers… like, c’mon, can’t a girl just eat in peace without having things drip all over!?!
The Peking duck was sweet and not too oily, balanced out nicely by the refreshing cucumbers and onions. The pork belly had a good ratio of fat to lean meat, and was just bursting with juiciness. Xeo preferred the Peking duck while I favored the pork belly. The buns were fluffy and soft, with a tinge of sweetness distinct to Asian buns. At $6 for the whole set, it beats Momofuku hands down.
We had the Asian buns to-go, and here’s showing the ratio of filling to buns. I dread moments when I cut open an Asian bun to find 98% dough with 2% filling. Fortunately, HWTH’s buns were not too shabby.
The custard was not overly sweet, but still thick and creamy. The bun was baked to airy perfection. Again, it was fluffy and slightly sweet.
The pork buns have a poorer filling-to-dough ratio compared to the custard, but the filling of BBQ pork was very moist and absolutely delicious.
Affordable prices, tender meats, amazing balance of sweet & savoury, and ITS-SO-FLUFFY buns.