Be it Middle Eastern mezze, Spanish tapas, or Korean banchan, city folks these days seem to love sharing small plates when dining out. However, there are still those who prefer to dedicate themselves to one dish. And Dupont Circle’s Ping Pong Dim Sum is aiming to meet those needs with its fall menu. Unveiled on Oct. 30, it features the restaurant’s signature small plates in addition to new larger-sized portions.
Ping Pong will be offering a variety of hearty signature entrées twice the size of the more delicate dim sum. While small plate and appetizer options like crispy eggplant (an elegant take on the popular Hong Kong street-food snack, flavored with garlic and sesame oil) and the beautiful steamed squid ink dumpling (stuffed with king prawn in garlic sauce) will probably remain popular, the new entrées are meant to satisfy those with larger appetites. These signature dishes range from a Hong Kong-style steamed sea bass fillet served with softened bok choy to the filling braised pork belly with five spice sauce. Carnivorous guests are invited to indulge in a tender hanger steak glazed with Sichuan pepper sauce. And seafood enthusiasts will most likely not be disappointed by seared jumbo shrimp, under-cooked to a perfectly juicy texture and served with tomato and ginger.
Along with bigger entrées, a new seasonal cocktail selection is also available. These libations are creations of Ping Pong Dim Sum's new resident mixologist, Chris Bassett (alumni of PX in Alexandria, Va.). The drinks menu has been organized into loose "themes." A notable offering from the "Classics with a Twist" collection is the Chocolate and Tobacco Old Fashioned, which incorporates smoked water and brown sugar into a blend of whiskey, tobacco liqueur, and chocolate bitters. For those looking for something with a bit of heat or zest, the Cucumber Curry Sen Sei, off the "Spicy and Sour" collection, should hit the spot; this one is made with Hendrick's cucumber gin blended with bamboo liqueur, cucumber, apple juice, bitters, and fresh curry leaves whose spicy, herbal flavor linger on the palate. From the "Bold and Rich" collection, the Pop Raisin Alexander is the perfect creamy dessert cocktail to dip Ping Pong's most popular new dessert, the sesame donut, into. Also know as Jin Dui, this classic Chinese street-food favorite is filled with warm chocolate custard instead of the traditional red bean paste. Its liquid "partner in crime" features chocolate-popping candy garnishing a blend of cognac with sweet Pedro Ximenez Triana wine shaken with white cacao and cream. And to fight off the impending flu season, try one of Bassett’s "Warm Drinks," among them the Smoky Apple — apple juice with a hint of smoke from lapsang souchoung tea — or the popular Warm Winter Punch — 18-year Bicentenario rum Flor de Caña, mulled wine punch abruzzo with flavors of chocolate, caramel, clove, and orange, some chocolate bitters, a peel of lemon, orange and lime zest, and hot chocolate-infused black tea.
Back with a vengeance is Ping Pong Party Brunch, which offers an unlimited dim sum option for $36 per person or the à la carte five-dish option for $26 per person. For guests looking to really indulge, they can pair these unlimited food menus with two bottomless drink ones priced at $15 per person. Both mimosas and "beer-mosas" are dressed up with choice of three exotic fruit juices blended in, including papaya, pomegranate, and watermelon.
Although the small plates trend has run rampant in D.C., dim sum specifically hasn't taken over the brunch scene of the city with quite as much force as it has in other American metropolises. Maybe it has something to do with the authenticity (or lack thereof) of D.C.'s Chinatown. Apart from Great Wall Szechuan House in Logan Circle and a few other establishments scattered around Silver Spring, Rockville, and Arlington, Chinese cuisine seems to, for the most part, appear in fusion form in D.C. While some signature dim sum plates at Ping Pong do fit that designation, some traditional favorites — among them pork shumai, translucent shrimp ha gow and barbecue pork bun (char siu bao) — can be found on its menu as well. Ping Pong Dim Sum brings a fun, creative twist on the traditional Chinese brunch-time favorites to D.C.
Lili Kocsis is currently working as the media and event coordinator at DC Metro Food Tours. She graduated from Harvard University in 2011 with a B.A. in linguistics. She dedicates her spare time to purposeful travel, food photography, and writing about regional cuisine under the penname MyAmusedBouche.