Sunday, 3 August 2014
Ping Pong Dim Sum, Soho
If you hadn't noticed I am partial to Asian food and dim sum is pretty much my favourite so when my good friend of 20 years came to visit and she suggested a couple of places to visit for dinner there was no question in my mind that Ping Pong would be where we would have to go!
There are 8 locations around London to choose from however as Ping Pong was our last stop of the day it made sense to head to the flagship Soho restaurant which was quite central.
The first thing you see as you walk in is the "steaming station" on the right hand side. The semi-circular bar (which is repeated throughout the ground floor dining area) overlooks the bamboo steamers and is a great place to sit if you want in on some dumpling action!
If it's busy then head on to the bar (also a semi-circle) and have a sip on one of the many delicious cocktails before being seated.
There is a third bar towards the back of the restaurant which overlooks the floor below with larger round tables (great for bigger dining parties!). We thought that it would be great to sit at the bar if you were on a first date as sitting next to each other would probably be more comfortable than sitting at the tables as the table we sat at was, shall we say, a little snug!
When you get to your table you are given a menu which explains the different types of dim sum - fried and griddled, baked, rice dishes, steamed, soups and cocktails plus an ordering sheet. Ping Pong have also recently launched their summer menu which has a few additional cocktails and dishes (hint: summer menu = fresh and light!).
Our very lovely waitress said that 3-4 dishes per person would be about right and as it was our first time visiting she suggested the sharing selection for 2 which would give us a nice selection and she was spot on!
The sharing selection covers 4 types of dim sum - baked, fried, steamed and rice dishes.
First out - the duck spring rolls and the roast pork puff. The standard "crispy duck" ingredients were wrapped into golden rolls. The duck was moist and was complimented by the cucumber and spring onion that were also in the crisp, flaky wrapper. The roast pork puff was gorgeous - flaky, slightly sweet pastry glazed with honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The pork was moist and similar to the char sui bao filling. Probably my one of my favourites but would have preferred a better pork to pastry ratio (more pork!).
Even before we were finished with the first two plates, out came two potato and edamame cakes and the spinach and mushroom dumplings. Unfortunately once you got past the crispy golden outside of the potato cake it just tasted like mashed potato and we both felt it could do with a little more flavour or seasoning - the spicy, garlic-y dipping sauce was a welcome added flavour. The dumplings weren't too doughy and had just the right amount of filling. Fried on one side then steamed, they were more mushroom than spinach but I'm a big fan of fungi so wolfed them down!
As if our little table wasn't already crammed enough with food, the waitress brought out the two rice pots - mushroom, vegetable with a black bean sauce and honey-chilli chicken. The flavour of the chicken dish was just beautiful - a little sweet from the honey but not too overpowering and a pleasant spiciness. The veggie rice had LOADS of shiitake mushrooms (yay!), baby corn, broccoli and edamame with black beans but we thought the sauce needed to be a tad stronger.
We decided that before the last of the steamed dumplings came out we should take advantage of the exotic sounding cocktail menu and order some drinks. After enjoying a beautiful sunny day it was only right to order from the summer menu. I have to add now that I am not a cocktail kind of girl whatsoever and am normally happy with cider or a glass of wine but everything sounded so delicious that I thought it would be best to step completely out of my alcohol comfort zone and chose the blackberry and chambord mojoito, my friend had the longan and sake mojito.
I have been officially converted. Look how happy I am! I'm not a fan of spirits of any kind but let me just say that I may have had more than one cocktail...it was so refreshing! Blackberries, lime, mint mixed with rum and chambord - summer in a glass!
Next came the steamed part - chive and prawn, chicken and cashew nut, seafood dumplings. I'm up for trying most things but one thing I know I don't like is anything prawn so left it to my friend to do the tasting. The chive and prawn dumplings had a beautiful green wrapper and apparently tasted "like spring with a light veggie scent", the seafood dumplings were super fishy - both got devoured! I found the filling of the chicken and cashew dumplings didn't have as much flavour as I would have liked but the mix between soft chicken and chunky nuts was quite nice!
As if we weren't already stuffed enough, (the sharing selection is just the right amount of food for 2 hungry explorers) I ordered the char sui bao because...well, because it'd be wrong not to! I can't help myself when it comes to pork buns! Stuffed with honey barbecued pork, not that different to the pork puff from earlier, these fluffy clouds of dough manage to be so light to eat yet deceptively filling.
We finished dinner with another dish from the summer menu - the citrus squid and carrot salad. Very light and fresh squid with carrot, coriander, ginger and spring onion with delicate lime and chilli dressing.
Another drink interlude! The blackberry cocktail I had before was so delicious that I had to have another one but my friend went for the amaretto and wasabe sour. Oh. My. Goodness. It sounds all kinds of wrong to have wasabe in a cocktail but please trust me on this one - it was a-maz-ing! I mean really amazing! The first taste you get is the amaretto but then the wasabe flavour comes through and the combination is sheer genius!
Finally it was time for desert and two more choices from the summer menu - yuzu mochi and mango mochi. When we only ordered one of each the waitress sort of looked at me like "are you crazy?! You're going to share?!" and I think she was right - you'll want to keep these all yourself, no sharing!
Mochi is normally eaten on its own but at Ping Pong you get a little ball of delicious ice cream wrapped in a mochi skin. The mango had the strongest flavour - really zingy and tart. The yuzu reminded me slightly of a lemon drop with a very delicate but fresh flavour.
So what do you think? Delicious or what?! Overall the food was excellent as was the service and the atmosphere. My only gripe is that the table was too small to fit more than a couple of dishes so I would love to either have a bigger table or for the food to be served with more of a gap in between so you have time to savour and finish each dish without feeling rushed to make space for the next plate or steamer. The dim sum at Ping Pong isn't as "traditional" as other dim sum I've tried and would love to see more tofu and daikon on the menu however the dishes Ping Pong have do cover a wide array of flavours, tastes and textures.
Have you been to any of the Ping Pong restaurants? No? Get to one pronto! If you are planning on visiting, don't forget to get your loyalty card - you get 2 points for every £1 spent and once you save them up you can redeem them for money off your meal! Yeah! Woo hoo!
Sharing selection for 2 - £32.00
Char sui bun - £3.45 (2 buns)
Citrus squid, carrot salad - £4.95
Yuzu, mango mochi - £1.95 (1 ball)
Blackberry and chambord mojito - £5.95
Longan and sake mojito - £5.95
Wasabe and amaretto sour - £6.55
Ping Pong (Soho location - check website for the other 7 restaurants)
45 Great Marlborough St
020 7851 6969