Review: Ping Pong Dim Sum Restaurant in Soho
Published 20 February 2011
With a name like Ping Pong, this chic dim sum chain with several branches in London tries to give this Southern Chinese cuisine a twist from the regular fare on offer at Gerrard Street. While the staid and traditional dim sum restaurants have names like “Lotus Palace” or “Golden Dragon”, the founders of Ping Pong went for the name of a distinctly Chinese sport which is known for its playful but also skilfulness.
On the menu at Ping Pong, you will find many of the typical dim sum dishes that you find at other Chinese restaurants in London, but with a twist. There’s the seabass dumpling for example – the dish can be found at many dim sum restaurants – but it arrives with an eye-pleasing purple colour dumpling skin.
The most important aspect of Chinese food is the taste – and at Ping Pong, all the dishes that we tried on the night delivered on this test. But many of the dishes go further, for example on presentation, as was the case with the seabass dumplings. Good quality ingredients were also present. I was especially impressed by the freshness of the seafood used for the various dim sum dishes. The fish shumai for example, made with tilapia fish, was extremely juicy and bursting with flavour. The crispy prawn balls (A Ping Pong signature dish) were one of the highlights of the evening for me – the best I’ve ever had, and believe me, I’ve had my fair share of prawn balls in the past!
Another way that Ping Pong is different is that there’s also a focus on using natural ingredients. The colouring for dumpling skins are made from natural vegetables – red cabbage for the purple colouring of the seabass dumpling, pumpkin juice for the yellow colouring in the celery dumpling. The chilli sauces at Ping Pong are made freshly at each branch, and not poured out of a bottle manufactured thousands of miles away. And none of the dishes were over seasoned – so there’s no dry mouth afterwards as there’s no MSG in the food.
Classic dim sum dishes were given interesting Asian and Western twists which made them more exciting and introduced new flavours that worked very well together. The prawn toast topped with sesame seeds had garlic French baguette substituting the standard toast and a copious amount of juicy prawn mince which was mind-blowing. The fragrant jasmine & pork rice in lotus leaf had used Thai jasmine rice instead of the usual sticky glutinous rice, which introduced a new fragrant flavour as well as a different texture, as jasmine rice is dry and unsticky.
My favourite dish at Ping Pong was also one of the simplest and purest – the seafood roll, which was king prawns & fish wrapped in cabbage and gently steamed. No starchy skin, no sauce – nothing but the basic flavours of prawns and fish – held together with cabbage. Absolutely delicious – and probably also one of the healthiest dim sum dishes I’ve ever had!
Prices at Ping Pong are about on par with the great dim sum restaurants in London such as Pearl Liang or Royal China. The difference though is that Pearl Liang and Royal China have great food, but served in a very traditional formal dining atmosphere. At Ping Pong, the focus is more trendy, with a more intimate and casual atmosphere. Royal China would be great for business meetings and family gatherings. Ping Pong is perfect for a night out with friends or a romantic date.
A key difference as well is that Ping Pong not only has good dim sum, but also quite an extensive cocktail menu with fusion flavours. While I didn’t try them on the night, the sake mary and the elderflower saketini caught my eye on the menu – which are just two amongst the many interesting and unique concoctions on offer at Ping Pong!
Ping Pong Dim Sum – Soho Branch
Address: 45 Great Marlborough Street, Soho, London W1F 7JL
Booking/Enquiry Tel: 020 7851 6969
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat (12pm – 12am), Sunday (12pm – 10.30pm)