Ping Pong Dim Sum is one of the the best date restaurants in Washington, DC. Between the fun menu, exotic drinks, and perfectly balanced atmosphere for a city-style night out, it would be a perfect place for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner. In February that is a important point of interest. Still there are many other reasons to have a dinner or lunch at Ping Pong Dim Sum.
Ping Pong has an extensive drink and cocktail menu: from teas, coolers, and fresh lemonade, to the cocktails -- chinese mule,ping pong martini and their hazelnut mojito. The wine selection is more than enough to spark an interest. The Line 39 sauvignon blanc is a perfect fit with the cuisine at Ping Pong, it pairs easily with most of the menu items. It is light, with a crisp, citrus finish. The scallop and shiitake mushroom dumplings provide layers of enjoyment when matched with the Line 39. On the red wine side, I found the Cono Sur pinot noir to be ideal. Also light, soft tannins, a nice berry flavor, and a clean finish. The duck items all seem to shine with this wine.
The cocktails are also fun, enjoyable and a good playmate. The vanilla and chili sidecar was good, though, I wish the chili was a tad more dominant. The fig & chocolate was a brilliant drink; the subtle flavors of the fig, and a creaminess that complements the chocolate and bourbon. Surprisingly the bourbon was a mild flavor in this wonderful cocktail.
Let's talk food for a second, because every time I have been to Ping Pong, I knew the food would shine. Every single item seems to have been created with the utmost care and attention, even if you are only getting a few bites. This is why Ping Pong is a great social ground; small, appetizer-sized plates arrive continuously at the table throughout the meal, stimulating a social dining environment, much like a spanish tapas restaurant. Take this into consideration; if you would like something specific to begin your meal, I advise only ordering that item first. The same thing goes for something you would like last.
When looking over the menu, take the fact that the dishes are smaller into account. Because of that, items like the crispy eggplant, and the edamame, are great dishes to share with the whole table; so there is something wonderful to enjoy at all times, even when other items have yet to arrive. With that said, the chicken black pepper spring rolls are outstanding; a peppery, fiery taste lingers with a sweetness from the mango chili sauce. Seafood shu mai is a standout on the menu: the blend of prawns, squid and scallops it is an exceptional dish. All of the desserts are as advertised, my personal favorite is the banana spring roll with chocolate ice cream.
The key to making a place special is the people. Of the times I was by for dinner, drinks, or lunch, I must say the wait staff was overall friendly and attentive. On one of the times I was there, our table was on the window side of the restaurant: a very nice view. It was, however, a little chilly due to the cold temperatures outside. In a lot of cases, this would be a problem. I was okay with it, and felt as if they had been careful to make sure that was the case before seating me at the table. It was as if the staff at Ping Pong took this as an opportunity to wow me, as well. From the management team down, they did it all: the correct amount of guidance with the menus, proper recommendations and suggestions for pairings, and never an empty glass. They made a borderline stay became a memorable moment, because they do the job right.
Unfortunately, there was one sub-par meal at Ping Pong. The server lacked the friendliness and knowledge that most of the staff seemed to be fluent in; this made for a slightly awkward visit. The rest of the staff did, however, compensate and carried load. You will have a primary server, but as your meal goes on you will meet the rest of the staff, as other servers refill water, bring by food, and ask if there is anything else they can get you. Making even a sub-par experience for them at par with an average dining experience at other restaurants.
The final verdict on Ping Pong Dim Sum, 4 out of 5. A highly recommended restaurant! The food is exceptional, the drinks are creative and ambitious, and the staff is a reflection of the high standards. I love the ability to taste a multitude of different foods, and to be able to step outside of your safety zone without having to commit to one big dish. Combined with the carefully designed menu, the modern city ambiance makes Ping Pong an attractive option for a night out in the Nation's Capital.
Rating: 4 out of 5