Any restaurant review of the Ping Pong dim-sum-with-cocktails chain tends to get a bit sniffy about ‘authenticity’ and ‘mediocrity’, but I think it’s a good place to get introduced to dim sum. The quality may not be the highest, but neither are the prices, and it is consistent. They have a good range of set menus, and if you decide to go ‘off-piste’ there aren’t any dangers lurking in the far reaches of the menu.
They are also veggie-friendly. You get two sets of chilli dipping sauce and I’ve never had them set down on the table without the waitperson explain that one of them has shrimp in, while the other is vegetarian.
Their menu also has a good selection of vegetarian dim sum and a veggie set menu. This sets is as a few streets ahead of some other critically acclaimed dim sum places such as Pearl Liang, for example, where the dim sum menu has four vegetarian items and none in its set menu. (I say nothing against the quality of dim sum at Pearl Liang, merely its variety for vegetarians.)
Of them all, the hoi sin baked puff was the best. It was a bit dry, and could have had more filling, but you could taste the hoi sin sauce and it was crumbly and yummy. The vegetable spring rolls were the thin standard ones – crispy and hot, but the filling was just an excuse to have something deep-fried and dipped in sweet and sour sauce.
The three steamed dumplings I had were nice, although the spicy vegetables weren’t very spicy and there wasn’t a lot of filling in the sticky-rice.
And this is going to be where I complain a little. I enjoyed the meal when I was eating it. I wanted to eat dim sum and it ticked all the boxes for me while I was eating. It was when I was coming home and thinking about how to write this blog post that I realised there was nothing to distinguish the three steamed items from each other. They were finely chopped, pretty bland vegetables in a soft and sticky casing. I may as well have picked the cheapest and had three portions of it. That’s OK, in a way, I suppose. I may have picked the wrong things (although most of them show up on the vegetarian set menu). But I have eaten at Ping Pong as a meat eater and it doesn’t happen with their non-vegetarian dumplings. The chicken and cashew nut dumpling tastes different to the har gau, which tastes different to the chicken shu mai. If they can do that with the standard meat and seafood, why can’t they do it with the standard vegetarian ones?
Despite all that, I did enjoy the food, and I will go back (although that has more to do with location than anything else). And the iced lychee and ginger tea was delicious!
Food for three, including wine for two, came to £107.