I divide dim sum restaurants into two types – traditional and modern. The first is steeped in tradition and includes menu items of taste, texture, and origin that are bizarre in the west; the second category is an updated version of this dining tradition often utilizing western cooking techniques and presentation with more mild flavors. Ping Pong Dim Sum is of the later type.
Now, I normally prefer not to write about restaurants that are part of a chain; however, the addition of this place to the District is worth mentioning. Originating out of the United Kingdom, Ping Pong is an upscale and modern dim sum parlor. Located in the old Chinatown section of Washington, this is the first Ping Pong outpost on the United States. Inside the restaurant is sleek and contemporary with dark wood, black and white photographs, and minimalist décor.
The Washington Post gave Ping Pong a rather lack luster review this week. However, when we went we found the food – described in the restaurant's tag line as “little steamed parcels of deliciousness” – to be very good. It is definitely not traditional dim sum – but a variety of creative and tasty dumplings, buns, puffs, parcels, and other delicacies. We tried several types of shu mai, dumplings, and spring rolls. Our favorite dishes were the griddled spinach and mushroom dumplings and the crispy hoi sin duck spring rolls (and we asked for a second order of each). For dessert we ordered the Valrhona chocolate bun and the roasted pineapple and coconut spring roll. The spring rolls were crispy and butternut dipping sauce was very good with the roasted pineapple and coconut flavors. The chocolate bun was also excellent – a fluffy bun filled with warm, rich chocolate.
Ping Pong is not a traditional dim sum hall filled with carts and the clatter dishes. But, it is a fun and hip place to try a creative take on dim sum dishes.