My friend Val organized an outing for dim sum last weekend, and when she told me that we were headed to a restaurant called Ping Pong, I had to admit that I had doubts. It’s the name. Ping Pong. Not even table tennis players like it when you refer to their sport that way, so why would I want to try a dim sum restaurant that decided the most Chinese-sounding thing they could name themselves was a term that has no meaning whatsoever in Chinese!?!
Well, attempting to act like a normal person sans weird hangups, I agreed to Ping Pong, and our group of three met at 12 noon at the James Street location (ack! a chain, no less), near Bond Street tube.
When I reached James Street, I saw that the restaurant doors were open, but Val was standing on the street corner. Why? Because even though the restaurant opens at 12, you can’t set foot inside until the staff says you can. So we stood outside for 15-20 minutes, staring inside through the wide-open doors and waiting for a signal that we could step over the threshold.
At last we were admitted and then told that the three of us couldn’t sit near the French doors that opened out to the lovely sunny day. Apparently, those tables were “just for groups of two.” In the otherwise empty restaurant, the three of us had to sit in a four-top near the restaurant bar in the back.
Things could only improve from there, no?
The dim sum menu offerings, while limited, are just £3 a dish, and they’re actually not bad. The shao mai is passable (hot and meaty with a firm bite), and the chive dumplings aren’t bad once you get past the green-colored skin.
My favorite part of the meal was the Jasmine tea. Though it’s £2 per order, you’re served your own “ball” of tea, which opens up into a flower once you pour hot water in. Hot water is repeatedly offered as a top up, so cheers to the attentive service.
The decor is best described as Hakkasan-lite, with dark woods in a vaguely Chinese motif pattern.