It’s not very often that I am reluctant to go to a restaurant. Especially one that serves dim sums. Most of the hesitation sprung up after a spate of bad reviews – from bloggers, voracious foodies, well-travelled Mumbaikars who had dined at the London outpost and were making inevitable comparisons.
Given the circumstances, it would be pretty easy for me to join the bandwagon and hurl criticism at “Ping Pong,” for the food – in its most part – was bland. And while dipping it in the sauces would make it better, it’d also mean that all dishes would taste the same – the flavour of the sauce. Yes, there are plenty of shortcomings at “Ping Pong,” but there was enough to like too.
The bar is well stocked, and on the manager’s recommendation, we started with their bestselling cocktail, the Lychee and Roses (Rs 350). Not being fans of gin and hating rose even more, we were reluctant to order it, but the drink passed with flying colours. The quantity of alcohol was just perfect and neither flavour overpowered the other. Our other drink was a mocktail – Pineapple, Coconut and Lime (Rs 250). It didn’t taste too different from a virgin pina colada, but we liked it nonetheless.
To munch on, there were the you-can’t-put-them-down Prawn Crackers with hot chilli sauce (Rs 150) and Maodou (Rs 200). While the former is a mainstay at several Asian restaurants, the latter is a wonderfully subtle, stripped-down dish that not many may appreciate. They’re just edamame beans that come with the pods intact. Below the name of the dish, “Ping Pong’s” menu reads ‘p.s. discard pods’. Was there a need to spell it out? We don’t think so; but cockiness doesn’t seem like the restaurant’s intention.
As if to rid us of any doubt regarding the same, it was only a minute later that a party of six sat at the next table. And the manager explained to them with incredible ease and politesse that no Indian food was available. Seeing their confusion, he even ordered for them and devoted more of his attention to their table than any other.
Appetizers included the oily but crunchy Vietnamese Rice Paper Prawn Rolls (Rs 350) and a Lemon Chicken (Rs 300) that we’d like to forget. When asked for feedback, we minced no words, telling the manager that it was tough and rather tasteless. Admitting that several customers had complained of the same, he said it would take a while to rectify the mistake as approval was needed from international authorities to make even minor alterations.
Then came the onslaught of the dim sums. “Ping Pong” has the tact to label each container with the name of the item, considering that any table that orders more than one variety (read: all tables) would have utter confusion regarding which is which.
The Seafood Dumpling (Rs 325) was a little doughy but its stuffing was fresh, while the Spicy Vegetable Hot Dumpling (Rs 250) fared a lot better with a crunchy filling and translucent exterior. It’s the quantity – three dim sums per portion – that is most questionable. We loved the Chicken Bun (R275) that was moist, and filled with just the right amount of barbeque chicken and caramelised onions.
By this point, we were ready to write off most reviews as overreactions. That thought lasted only till the mains arrived at our table. We got the Chicken Pot Rice (Rs 350) that was extremely bland. A dollop of the hot chilli sauce is necessary if you are to have any flavour. The other main, Seafood Sticky Rice (R375) comes as two parcels wrapped in banana leaves. Yet again, the menu suggests you dispose of the leaves and eat only the rice. We had copious amounts of their yummy chilli oil (which contains dried shrimp) with the seriously sticky rice to add a hint of flavour. One parcel of the rice may look deceptively small, but it’s quite filling for a person who has had more than a couple of appetizers.
Dessert again, was average. It’s not that we didn’t like our Molten Cake (Rs 220); it’s that we didn’t like it enough. Sure, it’s hard to go wrong with gooey chocolate and a dollop of ice cream on the side, but it’s also hard to make it memorable.
At the end of our meal, the manager wore a look of disdain as he listened to our “too bland” comments. “You know, I’ve grown up in India, but I’m Chinese, and at home, this is the kind of food I eat. For me, I love this, but I think it’ll take Indians a while to accustom to the fact that there are no spicy gravies. It’s for them that we’ve provided the dipping sauces,” he said. Point noted.
- Ping Pong
First International Financial Center,
BKC Rd, Bandra Kurla Complex,
Bandra East, Mumbai