After arriving in DC and dropping our bags at the hotel, food was shortly on our mind. I asked the concierge about restaurants in Chinatown and he gave me two names, both near the metro station. We saw Ping Pong Dim Sum first, so it “won”. We’re fond of dim sum – and what could be more authentic than dim sum in Chinatown. Well….
Interesting note: the chairs had no backs – I’m sure there was a reason for that, but it doesn’t lead you to want to “kick back” after dinner. You’d fall flat on the floor if you did. Getting to the table, what else I didn’t expect was that this was not truly dim sum – there is no one pushing around carts of plates, but rather a menu you can choose from.
What I later learned that I also didn’t expect (although it makes everything make much more sense) – Ping Pong Dim Sum is an international chain with two locations in the US, both in DC. So it’s more of dumpling based fusion restaurant.
We ordered two of the lunch specials, Jo one based on one of their “signature dishes” along with a sampling of dumplings, and me ordering their price fix dim sum, which had a sampling from all of their menu sections, plus dessert.
We ordered and waited. And waited. And waited. Service was slow – Jo ordered some tea and then waited ten minutes for the container of sweeteners. Eventually the food arrived (maybe twenty-five minutes after we placed our order), and the first thing to show up was Jo’s “signature dish” – crispy chicken with orange chili glaze.
This was described as lightly fried chicken breasts in an orange and chili reduction with stir-fried vegetables. It wasn’t warm, but it was pretty good. And the stir fried vegetables were three snow peas and some random greens.
Then my sampler plate arrived, with:
- a honey roasted chicken puff (puff pastry filled with tender chicken breast, flavored with soy sauce, spring onion, and topped with pineapple);
- a chicken and black pepper spring roll (honey roasted chicken sprinkled with black pepper wrapped in wheat flour pastry);
- a hoi sin duck bao slider (steamed bun filled with lacquered and shredded hoi sin duckling, cucumber and spring onion); and
- a crispy prawn ball (jumbo shrimp,crisp shredded pastry with sweet and sour sauce).
The two chicken bites were very good – I mentioned that I would order either of them again. Although when I look at the prices, the spring roll itself was priced at $6.75 – I don’t know that it was worth that. The duck slider was fine and Jo enjoyed the crispy prawn ball. As we were finishing our entrees, the two steamers containing the dumplings arrived.
From top left:
- braised beef in a cabernet reduction, in a red wine pastry (this was like taking a shot of wine in a dumpling – one was eaten);
- edamame, garlic, onion and truffle in a potato starch pastry (Jo ate both of these);
- tea-braised chicken breast in a green tea pastry (we both ate one);
- shrimp and garlic butter in a black squid ink pastry (she ate one, I ate half); and
- (in the center) blue crab and sweet corn shu mai in a carrot pastry (we avoided these altogether).
As you can see from the parentheticals after each dumpling, it was a mixed bag. Like the restaurants itself, the food looked good, but left us feeling like it was more flash than substance. The service wasn’t that good (that’s a generous characterization). And they didn’t ever bring my ice cream.