Ping Pong Diplomacy
Ping Pong Diplomacy’s approach to Chinese-american cuisine will win you over.
The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers? They’re all here, and they’re ready for rounds of paddle play until the ball finds its place in their court. It’s not difficult to understand Ping Pong Diplomacy’s philosophy. There’s a portrait of Mao Zedong on one wall, an overall feel of dai pai dong-meetsAmerica, and the clashing of colors of two of the world’s superpowers in every corner. Suddenly, Chinese cuisine is progressive and pro-american.
Remember, though, that the revolution didn’t start here. Many restaurants have tried to elevate Chinese cooking, yet closed shop even before gaining a following. Sinoamerican was thought to be a good starting point, with Filipinos coming home from their US trips as Panda Express fanatics craving for sticky orange chicken and sweet chow mein. Introducing fusion to a market loyal to their lauriats and lazy susans was deemed a challenge, but it was one sprightly taken on by a group of rule-breakers led by Charles Paw, already known for opening irreverent restaurant concepts like Hey Handsome, Bad Bird, and Wrong Ramen. With him are chefs Him Uy de Baron, Noel Mauricio, and Miko Aspiras, who’ve each contributed crucial points to the team’s standing.
How are they changing the playing field? First with familiar dishes you can always rely on, except they’ve all been gussied up: siomai infused with truffle, wontons filled with ground beef and cheese, and egg tarts that sit on flaky mille-feuille crusts. They’re good options if you want to take things slow and steady, but make sure to leave room for the real MVPS. The Prawn Scotch Egg and Not Mapo Tofu are glorious reincarnations that play good offense, while the 12 spicecoated Ping Pong Wings delivers a killer punch. There are carb options, too, but what you really need to complement your viands is plain white rice. (It’s on the menu,
but on the bottom of the page.) Order a bowl to balance out all the bold flavors. There are a couple of benchwarmers, too, like the could-be-crunchier Crunchy Eggplant and the over-the-top Surf and Turf Noodles. What’s left of your stomach space is better off with the delightfully chewy Fortune Balls and Tsingtao Beer.
You will see a lot of crispy leeks, sweet pickled cucumbers, and edible flowers on your plates, and those only add to what the restaurant stands for. Sometimes it pays to play with food, to relax the rules a little, and to take a risk. Consider that the restaurant sits in the middle of a mall when it could have easily found its place in the gentrified neighborhoods of Makati. It’s a risk the team took for the sake of good, fun dining. It’s time that you take your own. Here’s to the crazy ones!
Ping Pong Wings
Not Mapo Tofu