I have a friend who, when he visits New York, needs to have dim sum. Flushing is the usual spot to hit up for dim sum, but this time, we decided to explore a new and up-and-coming Chinese neighborhood in Queens: Elmhurst. And that is how we found ourselves at Ping’s Seafood, a small, inconspicuous restaurant on the corner of Queens Boulevard and Goldsmith Street that specializes in Hong Kong dim sum.
Elmhurst is considered Queens’ “second” Chinatown, but rest assured, there is nothing second class about Ping’s. The entry way itself let’s you know that. Laminated and yellowed restaurant reviews from such renowned newspapers as the Queens Chronicle fill the vestibule; pictures of the chef with the famous and influential of New York, including Mayor Bloomberg informs the visitor: this is not a place to toy with.
But where as other restaurants might ride the tail coats of their prior fame, Ping’s does not sit by idly. Instead, Ping’s offers some mighty fine dim sum; dim sum that rivals some of the better known restaurants of Flushing
Unlike the jumbo dim sum restaurants of Flushing, Ping’s is relatively small and as a result, quaint. The requisite red velour wallpaper with a massive, gold double happiness symbol fills the back wall of the restaurant but the front wall, covered with windows, allows in a tremendous amount of light (most Flushing dim sum places have few if any windows). Floor to ceiling tanks of various crustaceans blissfully unaware that their end is near are found throughout the restaurant. If the name of the restaurant didn’t give you the hint, the tanks sure do: this is a place to order seafood.
Although it was a Thursday afternoon, the restaurant was still half full and a full dim sum was offered. If ordering unknown dishes from ladies
pushing carts is how you get your thrill, Ping’s provides that, even on a weekday. But if you have been put off by dim sum because you have no idea what could confront you when you unwrap that lotus leaf, Ping’s provides a radical, alternative way to order dim sum: a cardboard menu with clear pictures and a description in both Chinese and English. For one of my dining companions, this was the most important aspect of Ping’s for it democratizes dim sum and unwraps the mystery of the gloriousness of the experience. If I was of lesser moral character, I would have swiped a menu to keep. Dim sum is pretty much dim sum everywhere and this menu is the dim sum decoder.
But Ping’s greatness does not just lay in its user-friendly accessibility. The food was also solid: there were some dishes that far exceeded my expectations, a few that disappointed, with most providing a steady and good dim sum experience. The seafood shumai were pretty amazing; the dumpling was bursting with shrimp flavor and was very fresh. The same held true of thee steamed rice noodle with baby shrimp: a lot of shrimp-bang for your buck and the rice noodle was perfectly moist.
But perhaps the best dish and a dish that should not be missed is the steamed glutinous rice & pork wrapped in lotus leaf. The rice had a light sweet taste to it and the texture was both sticky and slightly crunchy, making for a fun and delicious experience. The pork turned out to be crispy sausage with a lot of pork and spice flavor, adding a perfect complement to the sticky rice. Ping’s Steamed Glutinous Rice is perhaps some of the best in the city.
For me, the barbequed roast pork bun was a bit of a disappointment. I found the pork too sweet and the bun was a bit too dry. But one of my dining companions loved that the pork was extra sweet and thought that it was delicious. I let him finish off the third bun.
We next ordered a series of dumplings – steamed shrimp dumplings, steamed pork shumai and steamed minced beef shumai. As with all the shrimp dishes at Ping’s, the steamed shrimp dumplings were excellent – the shrimp very fresh and very full. The texture of the dumpling wrapping was perfectly light and sticky, offering only a hint of an additional flavor and allowing the shrimp to steal the show.
As pork is an important meat in the Chinese culture, I expected the pork shumai, like its shrimp brethren, to be good. But in fact it wasn’t. The pork shumai was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day and any trip to Ping’s should NOT include it. Even my roast pork bun-loving dining companion thought the pork shumai was bad. But not bad enough that we didn’t finish it.
Ping’s throws down the gauntlet: look out Flushing, Elmhurst is on the rise. Ping’s dim sum is well worth the trip: it’s a nice restaurant with better than average dim sum and the best sticky rice in the city. It’s also a great experience for a dim sum first-timer. Given that it is one of the few dim sum restaurants in Elmhurst, expect the weekends to be packed.
83-02 Queens Boulevard
Elmhurst, NY 11373