Richmond Dim Sum
Wherever you go in Korea you’re never far from great mandu, and even those who are partial to a good gyoza are spoiled for choice. But when it comes to the Chinese variety, good dumplings are thin on the ground; and having been lucky enough to try the real thing in Sydney, Hong Kong and various other points around the globe, it didn’t take me long to work out that Seoul dim sum is hit and miss at best and pretty rubbish most of the time.
[Note: My first visit to Richmond was made on behalf of Groove Magazine, and so our food was provided free of charge. I went back a week later and paid for my lunch myself, although the owner gave me an extra dish on the house. Soju Sunrise accepts freebies only very occasionally and will always explicitly state if this is the case.]
Perched on the hill overlooking Noksapyeong station, Richmond Dim Sum aims to change all that, serving up a small but tasty selection of dumplings, noodles and stir-fried dishes that draw on Canadian chef-owner Danny Oh’s four years of culinary school in China.
The dumplings are some of the better ones that you’ll find in Seoul, especially at the price; tastier than anything else in the Itaewon area for sure.
The har gow (6,000 won, below) – prawn dumplings to you and me – come to the table piping hot, moist and, unusually, flecked with chives.
The shaomai pork and shrimp dumplings topped with crab meat (below, also 6,000) are probably the pick of the bunch, bursting with flavour and colour. You can also get them without the crab meat if you prefer, as I do, which knocks 1,000 off the price. Stopping at just three isn’t easy, so it’s fortunate that you can add extra pieces to your order on all dim sum dishes without feeling like too much of a glutton.
The famous Shanghai soup dumplings, xiao long bao, are among the hardest of dim sum dishes to faithfully reproduce; the wrapping has to be just thick enough to hold in its broth until the diner has the dumpling nestled and ready on their spoon, and not before.
Richmond’s xiao long bao are pretty successful in this regard; on my first visit they were only so-so, the little sacs of broth looking a little deflated, but second time round they were fuller and juicier and generally really good. I ordered four and could have eaten two or three times as many.
If all this sounds like heaven for the dim sum purist, the chef also offers a sly wink in the direction of fusion with his M.B.C. spring roll (6,000, above), which mixes up mashed potato, bacon and cheese. Traditionalists will be horrified, and I was initially sceptical, but it turned out to be a great combination; perfect with a cold beer from the reasonably wide alcohol list, which also includes a range of Chinese baiju as well as the more usual Tsingtao and Harbin beers.
You can also get a regular pork-and-veg spring roll if you prefer. I’m not a massive fan of spring rolls but these ones, which the owner brought me on the house, were very nice. Fat fingers optional.
Apart from the dim sum dishes, Richmond also offers some rice and noodle dishes as well as a small selection of fried pork and shrimp mains which range from 15,000 to 21,000 won. But you should certainly save some space for the TanTan Noodles (tan tan mien), which sit in a deep and spicy broth of peanut, chilli oil and cilantro. There are as many iterations of this famous dish as there are cooks, and some may prefer it a little spicier, but it’s beautifully balanced and completely satisfying, and at 8,000 KRW would make a perfect lunch dish for all but the hungriest of customers. I loved it.
Overall, Richmond isn’t the finished article, and the constraints of working out of a small kitchen mean that the menu is smaller than a true yum cha fan might wish (though that might be addressed if Danny’s mooted second restaurant becomes a reality later in 2017). It scratches my dumpling itch (if that doesn’t sound weird) even as it makes me wish I were back in Hong Kong eating the real thing; but my second visit, in particular, sold me on Richmond as the best reasonably priced dim sum option I’ve seen in Seoul, and I’ll certainly be back.
- Category: Chinese
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Siu mai dumplings (5-6,000 won)
- Subway: Itaewon Station (이태원역) exit 1 or Noksapyeong Station (녹사평역) exit 2
- Directions: Richmond is tucked behind Nori Table and the new Gino’s slice house, just behind the street containing Manimal, Coreanos etc. Walk along the road until you see Nori Table (which is just opposite the original Gino’s NY Pizza). Richmond is on the hill just behind it. (You can get there quickest by exiting Noksapyeong station exit 1 and walking over the bridge, turning right at the end.)
- Hours: 11:30am – midnight (last order 11:30pm) six days a week except Mondays, with a break time between 3:30 and 5:30pm.