Friday, September 24, 2010

Restaurant Review: Ping Pong Dim Sum

Photo, courtesy of http://www.pingpongdimsum.us/

Last night I had an enjoyable group dinner at Ping Pong Dim Sum, in Chinatown (nearish the the Convention Center, see map below).


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Don't let the name fool you...there is no ping pong, and it may even be a stretch to call this place a dim sum establishment. There aren't dim sum charts being pushed around, and the feel is more swanky Chinatown lounge than dive-y ethnic (Tyler Cowen would have a fit!). But if you can get past these two assumptions (perhaps by instead referring to it as "that nice place that sells dumpling small plates"), you're in for a treat.
Steamed Dumplings, Photo courtesy of http://www.pingpongdimsum.us/
 Ping Pong serves a variety of steamed and fried dumplings, soups, spring rolls, and baked puffs. The latter is somewhat reminiscent of a vaguely Asian croissant with meat or vegetable filling. The rest are fairly standard fare for an Asian restaurant, but well-executed. 
Steamed Dumplings, Photo courtesy of http://www.pingpongdimsum.us/
Standout dishes included Crabmeat and Prawn Dumpling served in an open-style dumpling (instead of completely closed, they form a little purse), the (very) Spicy Seafood and Wonton Soup, and the slightly sweet Honey-Roasted Pork Puff with caramelized onions. Less impressive were Crispy Hoi Sin Duck Spring Rolls, which at $6 didn't feel like a good deal for the small serving and the Crispy Prawn Balls, the flavor of which is overwhelmed by the fried, shredded egg pastry. Pork Shu Mai has been hit or miss, bordering on too doughy, and the Honey Glazed Ribs were OK but not particularly unique or flavorful. 
Asian Manhattan, Photo courtesy of http://www.pingpongdimsum.us/

The drink menu at Ping Pong is ranges from the inventive (unique cocktails, flowering teas) to the typical (draft and bottled beers). Some unusual choices include the Tennessee Tea Tingle (with szechuan buds), an Asian interpretation on the Manhattan, and a St. Germain and lemongrass sangria. Previous experiences with the flowering teas have been disappointed--the menu promises that they'll unfurl while you watch, but the unfurling never happened and the tea tasted like barely flavored hot water.

Glazed Ribs, photo courtesy of http://www.pingpongdimsum.us/  
Service at Ping Pong varies...admittedly, the small plate, dim sum style does not lend well to uniform courses. But my most recent trip was fairly disappointing--our server forgot plates, mixed up who in the party had ordered what, had to be asked to bring missing dishes from the kitchen, and was slow to bring drinks orders to the table (which shouldn't have been a bar back-up, since the only drinks ordered were Sapporo in cans).
Despite poor service during my most recent visit, I'd definitely recommend Ping Pong for a date night, or for treating a less adventurous friend to 'exotic' cuisine that won't really shock their palate.

Ping Pong Dim Sum on Urbanspoon

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