Dim Sum—small portions of Chinese food in small steamer baskets—is new to me. What I discovered, upon trying it out at Ping Pong for brunch, is that dim sum is more of an experience than a meal. You get to play with your food and sample a zillion different odd little dumplings.
According to those in the know, all the good dim sum spots are in Maryland and Virginia. But this all changed with the recent opening of Ping Pong, a trendy dim sum spot in Chinatown. So, when Ping Pong invited us to check out their menu in anticipation of their official brunch launch, we were excited. (Full disclosure: This brunch was their treat.)
The dining excitement began with the extensive tea selection. I decided immediately on the raspberry and black pepper bubble tea—a jasmine iced tea with raspberry puree, black pepper, and tapioca pearls ($3.50). Unfortunately for beau, he ordered three teas, (lemongrass, lychee and ginger, and green tea) and each time the waitress went to place the order and she came back to report they were out of that particular tea. Finally, he found success with the pear and kumquat iced tea and was able to quench his thirst. Truthfully, I found it very awkward and rather humorous. The teas, by the way, were sweet, flavorful deliciousness—like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
Ping Pong has set brunch sampling menus, so we ordered the seafood lunch ($15) for me and the dumpling fix ($18) for beau. They each began with two baked vegetable puffs, with a delicious dipping sauce. The puffs were my favorite. Then, they bring out a basket filled with steamed dumplings of all different flavors (six for the seafood lunch and seven for the dumpling fix) along with “sticky rice” wrapped in a lotus leaf. The sticky rice was, in fact, sticky, and delicious—with fresh vegetables and seasoned with garlic. It’s a moist, flavorful version of fried rice—and much better.
The various dumplings—chive, coriander, scallop, seafood—had distinct, unique flavors (and colors). Beau found the “slimy” consistency that is typical of steamed dumplings rather odd, but I really liked the dumplings (hey, steamed is healthier!). The fillings were all excellent—and it was great to try six different flavors.
The set menu finishes with fried dishes (nom). For the seafood lunch: a crispy prawn ball (looks like a friend sea anemone!), prawn toast (to-die-for!) and a vegetarian spring roll (delicious!). And two duck spring rolls for the dumpling fix.
Of course, I ordered dessert, but less out of desire and more out of sheer curiosity of what a dessert dumpling tastes like. Asian restaurants aren’t exactly known for their desserts. (Though, Sei, my fave sushi spot, has amazing orange miso bread pudding). So, I decided on the Valrhona chocolate bun—a fluffy white bun filled with dark chocolate. The mushy, bland bun was totally bizarre, and difficult to describe. Though it came warm, it was too weird to be satisfying. If you must have dessert at Ping Pong (or another Asian restaurant) I’d suggest a safe bet like sorbet or fruit.
Other thoughts on Ping Pong: It’s affordable. Our waitress was super friendly and attentive. The food came quickly. The sleek, dark wooden decor, hip ambiance, and awesome cocktail menu make it a great spot for drinks and apps with the girls (or guys) before a night on the town.
The Bitches say: A-, dim sum and bubble teas are yummy and fun! More for lunch or dinner and drinks than for brunch—and skip the dessert buns. But, excited to see what they come up with after they launch their official brunch, which will include bottomless mimosas and bellinis!
Ping Pong Dim Sum
900 7th St. N.W.