It takes a confident team to propose and successfully impress me with a modern take on Chinese food these days, for I have found that the line between delicious and ridiculous is often a difficult one to tread.
While I have always thought that the term “fusion confusion” was reductive, and have long embraced the idea of thoughtful cultural appropriation and creative culinary exchange in the kitchen, I must come clean and admit that when it comes to Chinese cuisine I do possess a closeted layer of protective bias, no Chinese fusion for me please.
Sure I would be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy a tasty General Tso’s chicken just as much as the next guy when I am stateside, and yes, there will always be a special place in my heart for fortune cookies that have provided remarkable insight on evenings when I have had one drink too many, but when I am back home in Asia, I have the tendency to impose some nonsensical double-standards.
You see, in as much as this open-minded food writer applauds the efforts of chefs that push the envelope, when I yearn for a pot of piquant
The line between delicious and ridiculous is often a difficult one to tread.
So when Charlie Paw, head of the Tasteless group first told me about his company’s newest Chinese-inspired eatery in partnership with the talented team of chefs Him Uy de Baron Noel Mauricio and Miko Aspiras, I was a little more than skeptical. “That’s going to be difficult," I remember saying, citing that an eatery built around fun Chinese fusion was a tough sell and hasn’t been successful in Manila in recent memory. But Paw and his partners are not the easily intimidated kind, and for good reason, with a successful history of breaking boundaries (think Hey Handsome, Fowl Bread, Le Petit Soufflé, Wrong Ramen, and the game-changing food court, Hole in the Wall) he assured me, “It will be good, trust us.”
I’m glad I did.
It offers the diner a well-defined brand housed in a convivial setting with a clear culinary point of view from a kitchen that successfully takes the food out of China without taking the China out of the food.
Set to open on February 1, Ping Pong Diplomacy has achieved that desired balance between respectful and informed, clever and imaginative. Referencing the historical 1971 ping pong matches that took place between the United States and the People’s Republic of China during the height of the Cold War, Ping Pong is proof that the group’s mastery of concept dining gets better and more precise with each new opening. It offers the diner a well-defined brand housed in a convivial setting with a clear culinary point of view from a kitchen that successfully takes the food out of China without taking the China out of the food.
The interiors, of course, have ping pong paddles displayed on one wall.
While the menu lists its offerings in sections of small plates, big plates, rice and noodles, and desserts, I recommend enjoying your meal here in similar fashion to a traditional Chinese lauriat—shared family-style but, as each dish reveals taste profiles that are distinct, aggressive, and intense, it would also be prudent to enjoy each well-thought-out dish on its own so that the flavors do not clash.
While I enjoyed all the dishes available on the opening menu, my current favorites include the light yet flavorful truffle mushroom edamame
“It will be good, trust us.”
mian, one of my favorite dishes. Fresh lo mien, fried chick peas, crispy green onions, coriander, and thick-cut bacon with a bite of heat that I just love.
Ping Pong wings and truffled mushroom edamame
Fragrant crispy eggplant
Grilled typhoon shelter prawns
dan dan rice
For dessert, my top picks are the Fortune Balls made of taro, ginger, and black sesame mochi with sesame crumble and pistachio cream, which is best accompanied by a glass of the iced Fritillary almond soy milk.
Fortune Balls: taro mochi, ginger mochi, black sesame mochi
Opening on February 1, Ping Pong Diplomacy is located at the 3rd level of SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.