Ping Pong – Chinese New Year Menu

This past Monday was Chinese New Year (gong hei fat choi!) which ushered in the auspicious year of the dragon. To celebrate, I was invited to a bloggers dinner at Ping Pong (St Paul’s branch on Bread St) to try the Chinese New Year menu.

A modern, ‘Westernised’, dim sum house, Ping Pong is pitched as serving dim sum with a twist. I quite like Ping Pong because this chain of dim sum eateries is fun. Ping Pong might not be the first place that springs to mind for traditional dim sum eating, but they exude a chilled out contemporary vibe which makes the eating experience pleasant. Also I delight in drinking their flowering teas which bloom as the tea brews, the effect of which is visually arresting.

We tried a number of dishes from The Chinese New Year menu which is available until 6 February. Starting with a sweet basil seafood soup (£3.95) in a tom yum Thai-style – the soup wasn’t particularly spicy, but it was tasty for its sweetness. However the mussels in it were not good.

Sweet basil seafood soup

Sweet basil seafood soup

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Alisan – Dim Sum

For about the last three years, the dim sum kitchen at Alisan in Wembley has been run by two ex-Hakksan dim sum chefs, Bao Chen and Seng Chow. Consequently, in 2007, the restaurant became a finalist in the best dim sum dish category as awarded by the Craft Guild of Chefs and Restaurant Magazine. So despite its Wembley location – which entailed three tube changes – I just couldn’t resist going to see just how good the dim sum at Alisan might actually be.

The restaurant is spacious and airy with lots of natural light. But with Wembley stadium in view, it’s hardly the most glamorous location. The surroundings feel a little like an industrial site, and the walk from the tube wasn’t the most exciting.

But it’s the food that counts, and we started with a perennial favourite, har gau (prawn dumplings) (£2.80). The prawn filling was wonderfully crunchy and tasty and possessed a strong aroma of sesame oil. The wrapper was nicely done but could have been a little lighter in texture.

Right in a clockwise direction: har gau, tripe & seafood rolls

Right in a clockwise direction: har gau, tripe & seafood rolls

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Yauatcha – Afternoon Tea

Pâtisserie display at Yauatcha

Pâtisserie display at Yauatcha

Having afternoon tea at a Chinese restaurant might seem like a strange concept, but when that restaurant is Yauatcha, a one-star Michelin Restaurant, it seemed like something worth trying. Yauatcha’s creator is the famous restaurateur, Alan Yau who propelled Hakkasan to international fame. Alan sold his majority shareholding in both these restaurants in 2007, although he still maintains a management interest. Alan Yau aside, part of my desire to try the afternoon tea at Yauatcha was also due to the spectacular and mouth-watering pâtisserie display in the restaurant front. If you have ever walked past it, you might know what I mean.

Preparing for a spot of afternoon tea at Yauatcha, or any other decadent high tea location, requires a strategy similar to the kind that you might adopt for a major sporting event. Truth be told, I’ve never participated in a major sporting event, nor even a little one, so this is pure speculation on my part. But I imagine that you have to be disciplined in terms of what you eat, otherwise you might not last the distance or perform to your optimum. In this instance, a lack of preparation could have jeopardised my ability to gorge on all the delectable sandwiches and scrumptious cakes, and that was simply not on.

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