First Look: Inside Bing Bing Dim Sum
When Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh went to Japan, Darragh says they found it dull. Not the place or the scenery or any of that, really, but the food.
He thought the food in Japan was going to be awesome because pretty much everyone assumes that the food in Japan is going to be awesome. Because its like some kind of mystical fairyland where tekka maki grows on trees and everyone is handed a pound of uni and a handful of weird prawn-flavored candy upon clearing customs. But they were there for three weeks doing research for Cheu Noodle Bar and Bing Bing and found the food just…good.
Hong Kong? To hear him explain it, Hong Kong was a little different. Full of dumplings and good times. While we were sitting around inside their new triangle-shaped dumpling shed at that weird intersection where Morris and 12th cross Passyunk, Darragh reminded me of a conversation we’d had over a year ago–about dumplings and dim sum and Hong Kong. He said he thought we’d all been drinking (which is probably true) and that they’d just come home from their Hong Kong trip. We had, apparently, talked at length and I’d complained, loudly and long, about the lack of great dim sum here in Philly.
What killed Darragh and Puchowitz? They’d just made their decision to move forward with Bing Bing but couldn’t say anything about it yet.
So now that they’re close (so close…) to their February 16th opening (they’d literally just gotten their liquor license before we walked through the door earlier this afternoon), Team Foobooz decided to drop by, snap a few photos, and see what we could find out about the inspiration that Puchowitz and Darragh brought back with them–and how Ben was translating that into his trademark “screw you if you don’t like fusion” style.
It starts, as all good things ought to, with booze. The partners brought in Max Sherman (ex of Percy Street) to run the bar program, and he took to it with the same irreverent style that Cheu takes with noodle bowls, making a rye and green chartreuse slushie with Szechuan ginger beer called a Fingertrap, and a punch of 5 spice vodka, grapefruit, cocchi rosa, pomegranate, moscato, something called “Communism tea” and leaves of Thai basil that costs $35, is called the No Sleep Til Shanghai, and comes served in a pitcher big enough to pour a half-dozen glasses. They’re both good drinks, assembled intelligently and with a sense of humor. That pitcher of Shanghai has the added benefit of being just a little bit dangerous–it’s as easy-drinking as Kool-Aid and will likely sneak up on the unprepared.
The kitchen at Bing Bing is tiny (as is the bar, come to think of it), but the menu is substantial. Though hewing a smidge closer to tradition here than he does at Cheu, Puchowitz is still slinging boiled wontons with cheese curds, sour cream and chives (you just gotta lean into it and embrace your inner Jewish-Italian-Chinese grandma), turnip cakes made with matzo meal and bonito, and pan-fried reuben bao (filled with shredded pastrami and sauerkraut, served with a side of jacked-up 1000 Island dressing) because, really, what is a bao but a tiny little sandwich?
These are sharing space with whole fried baitfish served with sweet-and-sour sauce (and meant to be eaten whole, by the fistful, like french fries made of fish) and steamed jade dumplings with shrimp and leeks. The kitchen is doing a congee with soft egg and onion, awesome lamb ribs slathered in black bean sauce that are ridiculously fatty in exactly the right way–the meat just sliding off the bone, the fat melting against your teeth–and this:
That is their jumbo soup dumpling which, when pierced, spills out a shrimp and coconut broth and becomes, by the act of its own destruction, a bowl of hand-torn noodle soup. Nice trick, right?
Right now, the odds are pretty good that Bing Bing will not open with normal soup dumplings on the menu. Though Puchowitz swears that it is one of the greatest dreams of his life to crack the soup dumpling code and to figure a way–with his tiny kitchen, with his single steamer and limited staff–to make enough soup dumplings well enough and consistently enough to serve them to all the people who would no doubt want soup dumplings from Bing Bing, he isn’t there yet. Or wasn’t this afternoon. He’s had some breakthroughs, he admits. He feels like he’s been close to the perfect recipe a couple times. But still, he worries. Soup dumplings are not the kind of thing you can have on a menu and do poorly. Soup dumpling fanatics will never let you live something like that down.
But still, between the bao, the dumplings, the crispy little fishes, the big, fatty ribs and the booze, there’s plenty to look forward to at Bing Bing. They’ll be running friends-and-family dinners next week, so some things might change a little. But as of this moment, here’s how the menus are shaking out.
Bing Bing Food Menu (Draft)
Bing Bing Drink Menu (Draft)
And here’s what it’ll look like once you finally get the chance to try it out for yourself.
Welcome to Dumpling Heaven, folks. We’ll see you all there.
Preview the Food
Bing Bing Dim Sum
Check Out the Space
Bing Bing Dim Sum
Bing Bing Dim Sum [Foobooz]