Ping’s Cafe Orient, Lodhi Colony – a preview

Skeeter raises a brow when another restaurant starts serving ‘oriental’ slash ‘Pan Asian’ slash yada yada. Let’s begin with the food. Predictably so, it’d be a mix of dimsum, soups, noodles, tasting similar to that served by other establishments and even bearing similar or ‘inspired’ names and we could go on. Ping’s Cafe Orient at Lodhi Colony Market serves Oriental food. But they attempt something different. For one, Ping’s Cafe Orient opened to public in their ‘trial’ phase where the printed menu says ‘sample menu’ and is available for the public to walk in and they seek feedback during the meal (not the best thing to be subjected to) and at the end of it. The menu promises that when they launch, they’d have some Korean dishes and a lot else on offer. And then Ping’s Cafe Orient opted out of the tried and tested ‘Japanese, Thai and Chinese’ route to venture into serving a good mix of food from Japan, Phillipines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea et al. They have even christened the dishes after famous cities and rivers of these countires. It’s fun identifying them on the menu!

Ambience

The decor is different too! A refreshing break from the regular stuff. Thankfully there are no bulbs with filaments staring at you or bare walls (these are best left as signatures of the restaurants that started the trend). Rather, Ping’s Cafe Orient is a dim lit place which has these cute ‘Pings’ or buttons which switch on coloured bulbs hanging on your table when you want to ‘ping your server’ (the staff gleefully informed us on our arrival of this feature as we walked in). Interestingly enough, Skeeter managed to annoy a cozy couple on her first Ping as the bulb or the Ping light was shared by our tables. Curios are strewn all over but not overdone and that gives Ping’s Cafe Orient a very non-intimidating and comforting feel. Ping’s Cafe Orient utilise the restaurant space better than their predecessors Ploof, but some tables on the ground floor are placed a little too close for comfort (especially those that seat twos). The first floor is a more eclectic space where you walk up and stare at an installation of denims drying on wires, walk past a mini salon to enter the loo. Don’t miss the quirky loo signage! There is an extra long table on the slightly undone terrace which Skeeter could immediately imagine being held by a gang of youngsters having a wild time out!

The Grub & service

The menu is divide into Nibbles, Salads, Ping’s signature salads, Soups, Highway Style Appetisers, Dock side Appetizers, Mains, Ping’s signature dishes, Noodles, Desserts and Cocktails. A bottle of Sriracha on each table assured us that good things will follow. We started with crackers, sambal (the staff did not inform us that it contained fish sauce, thankfully we knew) and a fantastic house made black bean jam that called for repeats.

Skeeter picked Bamboo forest style Edamame Sea Salt (Rs 245) from the Highway Style Appetisers section. These were seasoned with good quality sea salt but were a tad overdone. The Edamame come in a Wok Tossed Chilli flavour too. 

Makati Manila’s Pomelo Salad with roasted Pine Nuts was no less than a rockstar except that it contained peanuts and not pine nuts as promised on the menu. Segments of Pomelo danced their way into Skeeter’s mouth with a refreshing burst of a variety of flavours that came together well, yet held their own. The citrus of the pomelo, the heat from the bird’s eye chilli, the freshness of julienned red and yellow peppers with a dressing that matched it all and finally the crunch of roasted peanuts – all made a very promising salad. 
Cebu style cheese Lumpia rolls with a twist were next. A generous portion of 8 rolls were served with the in-house black bean jam rather than the usual nahm jim. Crunchy rolls oozing with cheese & some veggies with a prominent hint of lemongrass make for an instant lift-me-up appetizer on a weekday. Yum! Service gets slow as we saw many people anxiously awaiting their food when the restaurant was running packed.

Skeeter loves a place that serves good appetisers and could make a meal of those. But she went ahead and ordered the Pho, the vietnamese noodle soup that comes in a vegetarian option at Ping’s Cafe Orient. 
Skeeter just had to try it and she’s glad she did! Pok Choy, broccoli, snow peas, shiitake and oyester mushrooms with some more greens and flat noodles come floating in a fragrant broth and topped with fried garlic and onions, something that’d be so comforting on a damp rainy day or a cold sunless one. Nevertheless, the Pho was hearty and a gigantic portion, that! For dessert, the coconut-jaggery icecream that Skeets tried was nothing exceptional but ended the meal on a pleasant and sweet ‘oriental note’. Will Skeeter go back again? Hell yeah!
Meal for two: Rs 3,000 (including all of the above plus 1 non-veg starter, 1 non-veg main, 1 mocktail)
Address: 13, Main Market, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi
Phone: 9999447977

Dimsum Fest at Pan Asian, Sheraton New Delhi

As Reeta Skeeter goes through the capital’s dimsum selection, she does a happy dance. There’s dimsum all around and Skeeter is hungry! Mr. Choy at Khan Market has been my go-to dimsum place for a while now and I wrote about it here. And when a dimsum fest came calling, it is natural that I was gluttonously inclined. The fest is on at Pan Asian restaurant at Sheraton Hotel, Saket. These are the categories one can choose from: Premium steamed, Teppanyaki, Gluten free, Organic, Steamed, Healthy Fitness, Pan grilled gyoza, Baked, Steamed, Poached, Soupy, Fried and Bao.


The Truffle edamame (Rs 425) from the premium category was the first one Skeeter tried and it was a delicately flavoured and well-made dimsum that hit the spot. Skeeter likes her Edamame beans straight from pod to mouth but this dimsum was definitely a good pick. One could dip it in either of the five condiments: Yuzu ponzu, black bean, spicy roasted chili sauce, onion and crispy chili lime or the chilli oil. But should you want to enjoy this dimsum and othes in their own right, you wouldn’t need to touch the condiments tray. A refreshing cucumber and kaffir lime cooler went well with this food. Skeeter could have it by the bucket. An Asian Bloody Mary should be your pick if you want to spike things a bit. Skeeter tried both and cannot recommend one over the other. 

Moving back to the grub, the Teppanyaki pick was Asparagus and Shiitake mushroom (Rs 425), steamed then flash fried on an iron griddle. Another gem from Chef Vaibhav Bhargava,  Executive Sous chef at Sheraton Hotel, this one exuded the meaty flavour and texture of shiitake that was blended with asparagus, and they made an appetising match. There is a surprise on the menu for the gluten intolerant. They can pick Rice paper stuffed with Chinese preserved vegetables (Rs 365). 


Truffle edamame

Fried dimsum with carrot and beans
The fried dimsum with carrot and beans (Rs 325) was almost like a spring roll and is more for those who who want, well, something deep fried. I’d give it a skip the next time and head straight for the Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao (Rs 325). At the same price as the former, this one’s better VFM. The Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao is a delicately kaffir-scented, teasingly spiced and multi textured dimsum that will transport you to Bangkok in one bite.

Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao



Hot and sour soupy dimsum

The Hot and sour soupy dimsum (Rs 325) made for some more delightful bites. They come neatly seated in soup spoons and though one should know what to expect, if you bite into half this dimsum, you’d be making a messy splash of it. Be warned! Having said that, Skeeter loves Hot n Sour soup and Pan Asian played this one well. They did a good job at controlling the temperature of the soup from kitchen to table. When Skeeter popped this one in her mouth, it didn’t scath her tongue and was warm enough to make her crave for a bowl of soup right then! 

Seven treasure mushroom dumpling

Skeeter would’ve ended this post on a sweeter note but she’s saved the best for the last. Skip dessert and end your meal with the seven treasure mushroom dumpling. This one comes seated in a deep dish and since Skeeter is a fungi fanatic, she was in for a treat. These amazingly textured dumplings come in a thin yellow wrapper stuffed with shredded Enoki, Shiitake, Black fungus, white fungus, Shimeji, button and string mushrooms. Besides, the presentation is beautiful as they come plated with some crispy mushrooms on top, a double treat! You dig your teeth into the soft, steamed dumpling and then you bite on some crispy mushroom. If you’ve made it to the end of this post, you have to order this one to believe what I just wrote. Chao! 

The festival is on from 10th to 31st August.
For address & regular menu click here