Dim sum means "touch the heart." In many cities, dim sum is an institution — office parties, general get-togethers and birthdays are planned with specific dim sum houses and carts in mind. These events haven't been planned as often in Richmond. We, as a city, lack multiple houses, besides Full Kee, for dumplings and steamed buns. Well, we were lacking until about six months ago.
On the inside Queen's Dim Sum still looks like the previous tenant, Mama Wok. An aquarium bubbles away on the bar. The decor is Chinese restaurant miscellany with laminated menus. The regular menu is similar to others in town, a bit Americanized. Chicken fried rice ($7.95) is on the oily side but chock full of white meat. Pork is fire-engine red in some instances but abundant in the double-cooked pork ($8.95) and black bean sauce ($8.95). Deep-fried salt and pepper ribs ($11.95) have a hint of the itchy Sichuan spice made famous by another Chinese powerhouse in the city.
Don't ask for duck. All three of the advertised menu dishes are no longer available. Instead, a whole chicken gets a crispy skin ($21.95) with great fry technique, but arrives on the softer side after a wait in the kitchen. It's a disappointment when duck is on the customer's mind. Queen's just doesn't shine with these menu items.
Its light is the dim sum served old-school cart style. Small, shareable offerings change from one service to the next. First are the familiar buns and dumplings: light and delicately wrapped har graw ($2.95), steam shrimp dumpling, packed with delicate pink shrimp. Fat steamed beef balls ($3.50) are almost spicy with the barely noticeable crunch of chopped onion. Deep-fried dumplings come with various fillings: shrimp and cheese with more shrimp than cheese, ($3.50), meat and shrimp with chewy ground pork and tiny bay shrimp ($2.95), and chives and shrimp dumplings ($3.50) packed with green. Each arrives at the table in different shapes with a rapid-fire description in Chinese and the turn of creaky cart wheels.
There are more adventurous offerings. A taro and meat dumpling ($2.95) is intermittently crunchy, pasty and starchy. These textures initially seem off-putting but then become addicting. Steamed spare ribs in a plum sauce ($2.95) hug the border of too sweet and awesomely peppery. Beef tripe in green onion sauce again hits a textural wall but kills it with fresh onion taste.
The cart keeps passing. Shrimp stuffed tofu ($2.95) is unbelievably airy. Pan-fried eggplant ($3.50) is crispy. Steamed chicken feet ($2.95), steamed sticky rice in lotus leaf, sweet with chunks of sausage and shrimp ($3.95) and daikon cake ($2.95) pile up, and the table is suddenly overcome with plates and steam vessels.
Service is just as quick. You won't notice your water being filled or the mysterious arrival of extra napkins. Anticipation of the cart takes over and these service standards happen machinelike without any noticeable interruption.
The hours of push-cart dim sum at Queen's are a little difficult to nail down. One server says it's offered daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Another suggests on Sunday. Call first so you won't experience the fleeting disappointment of having to order from the laminated dim sum menu. Either way, it's inexpensive for so many dishes and so much food. Bellies full, the clanking wheels approach again and a taro paste bun, glutenous and sweet, beckons. S
Queen's Dim Sum
7801 W. Broad St., No. 1
Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.