Thursday, April 25, 2013

ve = vegan at Ping Pong Dim Sum

It had been awhile since I visited Ping Pong Dim Sum, located at 900 7th ST NW, at the north end of DC's tiny Chinatown. A global restaurant chain, Ping Pong has locations in London, São Paulo, and Dubai. "Little steamed parcels of deliciousness" is the dim sum restaurant's motto and promise. They focus on small plates, kind of like an Asian-style tapas experience. There is no steam cart, rather you are given a pencil and a set list menu to mark your selections. (It's not unlike placing a sushi order.) In theory, this is a nice way to sample and share a variety of little dishes. In practice, it often results in a light, expensive meal instead of an ample, cheap smorgasbord.

Happily, since my last visit, Ping Pong's dim sum menu now denotes vegan dishes, as well as vegetarian ones. The letters "ve" mean "vegan." ("V" still stands for "vegetarian.") This minor notation puts significant questions to rest (e.g., eggs and honey). Now a vegan can fearlessly order dish after dish. Ping Pong's online menu takes this a step further, providing filters for different diets, including "gluten friendly" and "no nuts." These excellent menu clarifications are certain to please many customers.  
Little parcels of deliciousness
Here is a photo of our parcels of deliciousness from the night that my boyfriend and I visited. As usual, the food was attractively arranged. However the restaurant's mood lighting made taking glamorous photographs difficult. We started with a soothing vegetable wonton soup (left). Followed by a flurry of bamboo baskets, containing: (middle row, top to bottom) steamed vegetable buns, pak choi dumplings, and broccoli with celery salt. The fried spinach and mushroom dumplings (right) were my favorite items, with an intensely vinegary sweet and sour sauce.

In general, menu items arrive in threes, so be ready to negotiate if sharing. (I've become adept at cutting with chopsticks. My boyfriend is better at taking half bites.) Also be forewarned, the bustling servers always bring two types of hot sauce to each table. The servers will tell you which of these hot sauces contains fish and, therefore, isn't vegetarian. Meanwhile, the vegan hot sauce is great stuff--spicy and fiery red. I took a photo of it too.
The vegan hot sauce
Ping Pong Dim Sum has a vegetarian prixe fixe menu, but they do not currently have a vegan one. They do have an impressive beverage selection. They offer inventive cocktails, fine teas, wine, saki, Asian beers, and other cooling concoctions. Their Chinatown location features a sleek, modern decor with a sunken dining area, posh bathrooms, and a long side bar. The restaurant is often packed and has a tendency to get loud. Ping Pong has a second Washington D.C. location, close to Dupont Circle.

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