Ping Pong, the hip dim sum eatery with locations in Dupont Circle and Chinatown, is a little late getting on the craft cocktail train, but newly appointed beverage director Chris Bassett is making up some significant ground with his new collection of cocktails introduced for the fall season.
While Asian restaurants are typically known for sweet and fruity cocktails – think Singapore Slings and Mai Thais – Bassett is letting the alcohol speak and guide him in new directions.
"If you look at the drinking culture here – especially in the city," says Bassett, "there are big bourbon drinkers. And rum is making a comeback as well. People want to taste the actual spirit. They are not looking to mask it with fruit juice and other flavors."
Bassett, who studied at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miami and trained with master mixologist Todd Thrasher (Restaurant Eve and PX), is hoping to make Ping Pong not just a food destination but a place to get a great drink.
Much like the fall weather, the Cucumber Curry Sen Sei (left) is cool and crisp but with a little bite. Hendricks gin, bamboo liqueur, apple juice, bitters and muddled fresh curry leaves and cucumber blend together perfectly to make this refreshing cocktail. It's listed among the "Spicy & Sour" options, which also include a Honeysuckle Margarita and a Yuzu and Ginger Sour.
Among the "Classics with a Twist" is a Chocolate and Tobacco Old Fashioned (center), prepared with chocolate bitters and tobacco liqueur blended with whiskey and stirred with smoked water and brown sugar.
A perfect example of Bassett letting the spirit be the star is the Emperor's Cure. This "Bold and Rich" option is a 12-year old Yamazaki single malt whiskey with chartreuse, lemon juice and tazo honey infused green tea.
In addition to the new cocktails, Ping Pong has updated its dining menu with larger dishes that are about twice the size of a regular dim sum dish. These "Signature Dishes" include a braised pork belly (left), a lightly fried chicken breast with a citrus glaze (center), and crispy strips of beef and peppers tossed with a citrus soy glaze (right).
Ping Pong has also resumed its unlimited dim sum brunch that was briefly replaced with a five-dish a la carte option. Now, every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., diners may select either option. They may also complement their meal with bottomless mimosas or newly added beer-mosas (beer with a mix of lemonade or juice).
For diners that are already fans of Ping Pong, the new changes should only add to your experience. If you've never been or were previously disappointed, you would be wise to give Ping Pong some serious consideration.
Ping Pong's Dupont Circle location is at 1 Dupont Circle NW, Washington, D.C. Call 202-293-1268. Its Chinatown location is at 900 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C. Call 202-506-3740.
Photo credit: Troy Petenbrink