Friday, February 3, 2017

Love at First Bite: Ping Pong Diplomacy

I've been waiting for Ping Pong Diplomacy's opening ever since I saw its board up in SM Aura a couple of months back. Clueless of what this restaurant will offer, I was sure of one thing... that it'll be superb given that it's the brainchild of the Tasteless Group. From hits like Wrong Ramen, Le Petit SouffleHey HandsomeFowl BreadFreezer Burn, Bad Bird and so on, it's guaranteed that this new foodie destination will be just like its big brothers (or sisters?). And when I found out that they finally opened this week, I just have to be one of the first to indulge in its mouthwatering dishes. 

Hello, Ping Pong Diplomacy
Before I drool again as I recall all the dishes I enjoyed during my visit, let's do a bit of recap on history. 

Ping Pong Diplomacy is actually part of American and Chinese history and an important one at that as it was the first contact of both countries after two decades of neither diplomatic or economic relations. So why ping pong? The two countries' first exchange was through a game of table tennis during the 31st World Table Tennis Championships. If you've seen Forrest Gump, you'd get what I mean. 
I'm sure you're still wondering why the Tasteless Group named its newest venture such. To answer, it's because Charlie Paw envisions this restaurant to be a place that offers a fresh take on Chinese food; just like how Americans pictured it to be in the 70s. (Note that there was no communication for two decades so the younger Americans then were quite clueless of the Chinese culture, more so for its cuisine.) This is also the reason why the innovative restaurant group tapped chefs Him Uy de Baron and Noel Mauricio, known for their unconventional and fresh dishes, to be the head chefs of this restaurant. 

Now that we're on lunch break, let's focus on Ping Pong Diplomacy restaurant. 
I was first greeted by a quirky lighted signage that changes lights to depict the movement of a ping pong ball. Such cute facade gave me an impression that I was about to have one fun lunch.
The wall filled with table tennis paddles caught my attention as I stepped inside Ping Pong Diplomacy. And as I tried to count the paddles, I kept thinking how perfect this wall would be as background for food shots! 
I saw Charlie during my visit and he did the ordering for me. He chose Crunchy Eggplant (PHP140), Ping Pong Wings (PHP320), Simple Fried Eggs (PHP135), Dan Dan Chicken Skin Rice (PHP285) and Almond Soy Cooler (PHP85). I also ordered Fortune Balls (PHP150) as I'm crazy for mochi! 

As I admire the interiors some more, my glass of Almond Soy Cooler was served. I tried my best not to take a sip in order to include it in the food shots and I barely made it.
This drink may come in a small glass but each sip is packed with flavor. I hate almond drinks but I was surprised that I enjoyed this one. The almond taste was pronounced but I'm happy that it didn't taste like medicine as some other almond drinks or desserts taste like. I also enjoyed munching on the jello. 
A pretty fried egg topped with scallions, pork floss and sweet Oriental sauce was served next and it was love at first bite. 
I love pork floss and eggs but I've never really had those two together at the same time. It sure tickled my tastebuds with its sweet taste. 
The crunchy edges of the fried egg went well with the chewiness of the floss and the smooth texture of the yolk. This dish made me wish I discovered this pairing sooner. 
The striking tower of battered eggplants was pretty good as well! 
I loved how true the dish was to its name. The coating was indeed crunchy and was beautifully covered in sweet sauce with a bit of spicy kick. It was a nice contrast against the soft eggplant
A bowl of chicken wings soon followed and to be honest, I wasn't too excited with this one as I'm not a fan of chicken wings
But I was surprised that I liked it to the point of not minding the bones
I didn't expect that a 12 spice blend (think KFC with an Asian twist) chicken wings paired with crispy leek and pickled cucumbers would turn me into a fan of this popular finger food. 

I was already getting full when the Dan Dan Chicken Skin Rice was served. Knowing that this is one of the talked about dishes at Fire in the Hole (Hole in the Wall's pop up booth last year), I just have to try it, even when I was told that this dish is hot. And by hot I mean spicy. 
And it was indeed spicy but not to the point that I'd rush to the kitchen and drink gallons of water. It was manageable and I liked it! The scrumptious rice was a mix of sweet and spicy flavors topped with crunchy chicken skin and fried egg. The result, a gastronomic experience! The blend of flavors brought me to dandan heaven! 

I read somewhere that you could request to make this dish a bit spicier if desired. I'm fine though with it as is. 
And to cap my meal, I indulged in a colorful plate of mochi in black sesame, taro and ginger flavors topped with sesame crumble served on a bed of pistachio cream. 
As usual, Chef Miko, the person behind this dish, wowed me. 
I loved each mochi and the sesame crumble was a brilliant touch as it added texture to the chewy treat.
Overall, it was a fantastic dining experience. Food was great and prices were very pocket/wallet friendly. I'd definitely be back to try the other dishes and perhaps some more of the ones I've already tried. 

Ping Pong Diplomacy is located at 3rd Floor, SM Aura Premier, McKinley Parkway, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. 

Ping Pong Diplomacy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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