New Ping’s Asian Bistro
60 Madison St, Worcester
By Bernie Whitmore
One of the 20th century’s crowning achievements, the “all you can eat buffet,” has been revitalized at the new incarnation of Ping’s. Dull old steam tables have been replaced by burnished wood islands with granite counters and plenty of gleaming chrome. Perhaps as a response to the ever-increasing sophistication of their competition, the addition of a sushi station may well have put the “New” in Ping’s.
I must admit that on the evening I met a friend for dinner at Ping’s, my plan was to order from the menu. Professional chefs are much better at assembling appetizing entrees than I. No matter how top-quality a buffet, there’s bound to be strange items that seem to push the boundaries of food-tech ~ things I find fascinating but, inevitably, troubling. And those are the corners of a buffet that inevitably rivet my attention, so I don’t trust myself to put together my own meal.
However, within minutes of being seated, I abandoned this original plan. The wait staff didn’t seem accustomed to serving; when I asked for a menu our waitress presented a take-out schedule of combos, special deals, and colorful illustrations. A full complement of entrees was listed, but I soon came to suspect that there might exist, on that weeknight, an insurmountable language barrier. So I resolved to be a steadfast and disciplined buffet diner.
Ping’s makes making the most out of their buffet relatively easy. Plate in hand, I wandered over to the sushi bar and selected a small assortment of salmon and shrimp sushi plus several makizushi rolls. I also tried a small pocket made of rice starch filled with steamed rice and emerald seaweed salad. Judging by their relative freshness and the enormous tip jar at the sushi station, I suspect that Ping’s sushi is made on site – it’s easily worth the twelve dollar tab.
Next, we tried a bowl of hot-and-sour soup and some pan-fried potstickers. The soup was enjoyable but had a sweet back-flavor that seemed to echo its way through many of the entrees. The potstickers were a success, however, especially dipped in tasty soy-vinegar sauce.
With the soup and appetizer courses completed, it was time to explore entrees. Ping’s has several preparations of crab legs; I took one that seemed to have been lightly breaded and deep-fried. Bad idea, but only because extracting meat from greasy shells is a messy affair ~ I suggest you stick with the simple steamed versions. Bright green string beans were delicious and crunchy. General Tso’s chicken was sticky and very sweet. Something labeled “Barbeque crab” seemed more like sticky copy crab.
The aforementioned items are just a fraction of Ping’s buffet offerings: there were also crimson-red crawdads, steamed, deep-fried and stir-fried shrimp, beef-and-broccoli, stuffed mushrooms and stuffed tomatoes. For diehard Westerners, there were beef ribs so huge they’d flip your car over, Flintstone-style. Dessert was relatively modest, consisting of pastries and a freezer stocked with several flavors of ice cream.
The kitchen staff was constantly refilling entrees and maintaining cleanliness. The result was very appetizing with a wide breadth of offering. Nowhere was that silent desperation that hangs in the air of poorly stocked buffets.
I left Ping’s feeling just fine. And that’s a really good day at the buffet line.