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New Old Cocktails at Ping Pong Dim Sum

Since opening in December 2009, Ping Pong Dim Sum (900 7th Street, NW) quickly faded into the plethora of Chinese, Thai, and other Pan-Asian restaurants permeating the Chinatown, Penn Quarter, and Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhoods and providing reliably enjoyable menu choices. Yet Ping Pong’s bar received precious little fanfare.

I was determined to discover the reason behind this absence of attention. The bar is not small by any means, meaning it wasn’t simply an afterthought to the restaurant itself. And the cocktail menu uses a number of intriguing ingredients: lychee juice; elderflower liqueur; and tea leaves.

So I visited Ping Pong early in the week and a short while after the dinner crowd’s departure; perhaps with only few patrons present I might elicit the true explanation.

I settled upon their Asian Manhattan – a standard (and favorite) cocktail that was mixed with plum wine. Comparatively speaking, it sounds like a conservative selection when considering my other choices. Yet I realized their cocktail menu was precisely just that: a list of conservative, traditional drinks punctuated by exotic Asian flavors: a Sidecar made with vanilla and chili spices; a Cosmopolitan with shochu and shiso leaves; and a Mint Julep infused with Earl Gray tea. My Manhattan was like visiting an old friend who had just returned from the Orient, newly inspired by the region’s tastes and flavor experimentation; familiar yet changed, for the better.


Other patrons enthusiastically enjoyed the bar’s unique take on traditional margaritas and mojitos, served up in short order by a friendly and particularly talkative bartender. All in all, a fine combination of style and substance: prompt and courteous service; a variety of drinks boasting creative ingredients; and packaged in a upscale but not-too-trendy atmosphere.

At night’s end, I still didn’t have an answer for the bar’s lack of notoriety. I had a great time and a few great drinks, and was happy to find another great neighborhood location to enjoy an evening cocktail or two.

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THF is a Penn Quarter resident who blogs about the culture of drinking at thehipflask.wordpress.com.

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Comments

  1. 1

    Nate Mason says

    I don’t know that the bar at Ping Pong is overlooked. I have found it consistently hard to get a seat at the bar there. It’s super popular and based on the bar appetizers alone is a great place for Happy Hour. Maybe just cocktail aficionados haven’t been talking it up.

  2. 2

    pqresident says

    PPDS changed their cocktail menu since their opening. they removed the Tennessee Tingle which in and of itself was worth tapping a random stranger on the shoulder and asking them, “Have you tried this?” it was a blend of Jack Daniel’s, Cointreau, lime juice, cola product, and a Szechuan bud. nibble on the bud and you tasted something like you’ve never tasted before. every nibble was a different experience feeling just a little like when you were a kid and stuck your tongue on a 9 V battery, but so much more dampened that it felt kind of good instead of electrifying. it gave the drink an unusual zest to it. alas, it is no longer available at PPDS. but, the bar is still just fine there.

    WaPo did an article on the szechuan bud worth reading.

  3. 3

    Adam says

    The drinks are fine (albeit not particularly strong) and a good deal at HH. When the price doubles outside of HH, I can think of several places in the Chinatown/MVT area I’d rather do my drinking at.