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Sep 6, 2011 01:34 PM

Mini-review: Ping's Seafood still pretty solid

So I found myself craving a bit of Cantonese seafood the other night, and decided to go back to Ping's. It had been awhile since I'd been there - for whatever reason, I'd been favoring Oriental Garden, South China Garden, and Fuleen over the last couple years. But I noticed Ping's had a new website, facebook page, etc, and saw some dazzling looking dishes on them (foie gras w/ lotus root chips & pomegranate! really!?) so I figured, time for a revisit.

We popped in around 9:30 on a Saturday night, and every table was empty. Not to worry, though - they'd had a full buy-out, and we just happened to be the first walk-ins as the last of that group was leaving.

Since there were only two of us we didn't order a whole lot. We started off with a couple orders of dumplings - shrimp and "seafood with parsley" - the seafood in question turns out was just more shrimp, but no complaints here as they were delighful, light and juicy. The accompanying XO sauce was some of the best I've had in town (outside of my own homemade XO... but then I make mine all fancy-pants with extra-large conpoy and Serrano ham...)

Sea Bass two ways - listed as "Sea Bass with Asparagus" on the menu - was excellent, though there wasn't a stalk of asparagus to be found. One half of the dish had wok-sauteed fish of perfect texture over a bed of pea pods, the sauce more of a thin glaze, just enough to add oomph but never overpowering the fish. The other side had bone-in chunks flash-fried, so the outer fin bones were crunchy (though watch out for the inner bones... not so crunchy.)

Ping's Jicama Siu-Chow was, for me, the winner of the night. Kind of a sauteed slaw, with crispy fried fish-things studded throughout - no idea what they were, but fishy and delicious and perfectly balanced. I could go back again and again for this one.

Finally, the only disappointment of the evening was the E-Fu noodles with braised abalone. The abalone was decent, tender, and the mushrooms were solid, but the sauce... ugh. The flavor was okay if nothing exciting - honestly, it needed a bit of chili to liven it up - but it was SO heavy on the corn starch. They had described it as a soup or broth, but it was just a thick mucilaginous gloop. And because the noodles are not particularly toothsome but light and soft (they're made with seltzer, I think?) there was practically no textural difference between the sauce and the noodles themselves.

We couldn't have picked a better time to dine. Around 11:00 they closed the front door, though they never rushed us or any of the other diners out. Then from downstairs, the sound of a karaoke machine came on... for the next half hour the singing got louder and louder as whoever was down there seemed to get drunker and drunker. Turns out it was "the boss" - as our waiter explained to everyone in the room with a laugh when the singing reached a particularly emotive and gloriously off-key crescendo. For whatever reason, I like the fact that Chef Ping kicks back in the downstairs lounge after hours drunkenly belting out Chinese cabaret songs. That's the kind of ambience you can't buy.

Well... as it turns out, there was no foie gras on the menu - whether that's something only at the Queens location or something he just makes for special banquets, I don't know. But those noodles aside, Ping's is definitely back in the regular rotation. Now, if I can just figure out what I have to do to get that foie gras...

South China Garden
22 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

11 Division St, New York, NY 10002

Oriental Garden
14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

22 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. interesting, it was pretty decent a long time ago and then i heard the chef left and it went downhill pretty badly, maybe they have new mgmt or a new chef? ill have to stop in sometime

    6 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      Obviously, it's one meal on one night, and the kitchen wasn't busy given they'd just finished a banquet and ours were the only orders in. So MMV, to say the least.

      That said, I'm pretty sure Chef Ping Hui still runs the show. Even if he's not in the kitchen every night, the signature dishes are still his. I assume he has a CDC at each location. But he's not terribly old (early 50s maybe?) so I doubt he's hung up the apron yet.

      1. re: sgordon

        We went back about a month or more ago when Dim Sum Go Go was having problems with their steamer and we found that it was better than we remembered it. My hope is that they've decided to turn things around.

        Dim Sum Go Go
        5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

        1. re: windycity

          Well also sgordon is reviewing their late night dinner menu, not their Dim Sum. I haven't been back to Ping's for Dim Sum since a really unimpressive visit a few years ago, but I'm curious if anyone's been recently and if they've returned to form.

          1. re: InfoMofo

            yah id avoid ping's dim sum unless they've radically changed it b/c its borderline awful last time id went

            restaurants can be totally different in chinatown for different meals...Oriental Garden supposedly has good dinner even though their dim sum is terrible

            1. re: Lau

              Ping's was good for Dim Sum in the early 2000's but things went downhill about 5 or 6 years ago. Not sure if there was turnover or what but it was a noticeable difference in quality.

              1. re: MVNYC

                Yeah - while the dumplings were on the dim sum menu, the rest was dinner stuff. I know a number of Cantonese places that do great dim sum / middling dinner and vice-versa. Don't know why it's so tough to get both on the money. Probably a number of them have different crews for different meals, at Ping's it may be the B-Team for Dim Sum. That said, while we were impressed enough to go back and try the DS at some point, I'm more looking forward to exploring the regular dinner options. I'm the more adventurous diner between my gf and I, so I might go back solo or with a friend to dive into some of the more esoteric offal offerings...

    2. Wonderful writing, sgordon. I don't think I've been here for five years. Sounds like it's time for a return visit.

      1. I read this review as pretty negative. Sounds like pings is a relic of the past

        1. Thank you Sgordon. It's on my list.

          1. We had an excellent dinner at Ping's the other night. Dumplings were perfectly adequate, but the steamed oysters in xo sauce were fabulous--a HUGE juicy oyster served in its shell in a brothy xo sauce. For mains we enjoyed a whole steamed sea bass (insofar as it was brought to our table flopping prior to being cooked, it could not have been fresher!), mashed shrimp stuffed in tofu with eggplant and peppers in curry sauce and house chow fun.

            22 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

            3 Replies
            1. re: Marge

              was the sea bass priced by the weight

              1. re: AubWah

                I think so, I didn't pay but--it was about 1.5 pounds and 24.95 (I think)