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!
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