Restaurant Review: Le Thé, Geneva Sunday, Aug 3 2014 

lethegeneve

courtesy of Kokille46, TripAdvisor

This hidden treasure in the European centre of Geneva is a good five minutes’ walk from the main attractions, but often it’s five minutes’ walk that can make a real difference. Le Thé – one of many of the city’s cosmopolitan offerings – is a Chinese restaurant which also functions equally as a tearoom (hence the name). The main giveaway is the entire wall of teas and teaware that greets you as you enter, all available for purchase at a varying range of prices. However, they also serve a traditional Chinese menu, which is so popular that booking is advisable even on a weekday evening.

Nevertheless, the tea-house theme is prominent throughout, thanks to the leafy bowers, bamboo ‘walls’ and the use of chunky traditional teapots as decoration (as well as sale items and practical use). You have plenty of time to admire these, as service is on the leisurely side, but the food is worth the wait: the dim sum and steamed breads, available with a variety of fillings, are all excellent, and are washed down easily by the highly palatable (and affordable) Chinese wine on offer. Even if you finish with a gelatinous rice dessert, and amply sample the wide range of teas and other dishes offered, the food is light on the stomach and ultimately a good value offering, with the relaxed pace of service making for a perfect way to unwind. Would definitely return for more of this authentic cuisine and adventurous range of beverages.

Rue des Bains 65, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland
+41 79 436 77 18

Food TV Review: Exploring China Thursday, Aug 23 2012 

“You can have this,” my mum said during my last visit, sending a Ching-He Huang cookery book my way. “I hardly use it.”

Her loss is my gain, as I have not only been enjoying Ching’s recipes lately, heading to the depths of Paris’ 13th arrondissement in search of the trickier ingredients from the city’s Chinatown, but also enjoying her latest TV series, Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure, which I partly started watching due to recognising her name. Alongside the formidable grandaddy of Chinese cuisine in the West, Ken Hom, she has been exploring China’s different regional specialities, from picking tea in Yunnan to getting rained on in Sichuan.

Now that we’re three-quarters of the way through the series, it seems a good time to step back and analyse what they’ve accomplished. Have Ken and Ching, so far, achieved what they set out to do? As far as I can tell, their aim was to present a geographical cross-section of Chinese cuisine, recognising what each province has in common as well as what makes each place special. To my mind this has been achieved as far as is possible in what is only a four-hour series (the final episode will be aired on Sunday, with all of the others available for catch-up on iPlayer until September 2nd), and in that time they’ve crossed the country, from Beijing in the north-east, to Yunnan in the south (where China borders Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), and, lately, to the western Kashgar, which bears more similarity to neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan than to much of what we perceive to be Chinese. This has given an eye-opening view of just how diverse a country China is, showing tea-pickers, restaurateurs and halal butchers from all walks of life, demonstrating almost every conceivable type of cuisine.

However, Ching and Ken don’t just aim to break down China into digestible chunks. They also slip in a bit of history, allowing us to realise how phenomena such as the Silk Road and the Cultural Revolution have permeated every aspect of Chinese life, including its food. To this end, they as chefs try to understand the cuisine further, and come up with their own versions, hoping to innovate while still respecting and upholding tradition. In doing this, they repeatedly win the approval of their hosts – even if at times this approval comes Chinese-style (where “quite good” or “not bad” seems to be the equivalent of the American “fantastic”).

Ching and Ken also have personal reasons for undertaking this epic road trip. Having been born of Chinese parents, but raised variously in Chicago, South Africa, and the UK, they have a clearly keen and authentic interest in reconnecting with their roots. Speaking the language and cooking the food is one thing – but it’s perhaps another to be able to do that in the places and with the people where these traditions originated. Viewers have a feeling that for them, this is a genuinely personal journey – and this is bound to culminate in a truly emotive finale on Sunday night.

But what do the viewers gain? As well as giving these two talented chefs exposure, the programme educates in a really enthralling way. Not only are we given historical insight into this fascinating country in a non-patronising manner, we are also inspired to get into our kitchens, cook its food, and perhaps even visit it ourselves one day.

For us, the series has also had a perhaps unintended side effect: in the Chinese’s sometimes surly manner, suspicion of visitors and reluctance to compliment, and in the cuisine’s love of all bits of the animal and lashings of garlic, we in fact saw something that was intrinsically French.

Chain Review: Ping Pong Sunday, May 6 2012 

Staying in the Dupont Circle area of Washington DC meant we had a huge choice of restaurants within the immediate vicinity of our hotel (including Kramers literary café, which is set inside a bookshop…yep, it kills me that we didn’t end up eating here, discovering its existence only right at the very end of our stay).

Nonetheless, we were glad to discover Ping Pong, which, while it has locations in locations as far afield as Washington DC, Sao Paulo and Dubai, is in fact a chain originating in London (where it has by far the most sites). It proved a perfect pit stop for amazing dim sum, speedy yet friendly service, and a chilled-out yet buzzing atmosphere. It is evidently popular, and not without good reason.

The DC branch offers sunny views of the neighbourhood (well, it did on the day we were there at least) and was keen to advertise its many deals, including happy hours and all you can eat. We were never once left wanting for iced water and yet service was not at all intrusive. During our time in DC, we were constantly surprised at what good value for money locals can get in restaurants, and Ping Pong was no exception to this. We both plumped for the Dumpling Collection, which retails at $18 in the DC branch and is not available at the London branches. While we were waiting, we dived into their non-alcoholic cocktail collection, choosing a mouthwatering goji, mango and mint drink, which was refreshing yet vibrant – just the ticket for a warm sunny day in DC after a three-hour train ride.

The Dumpling Collection then arrived – and it was well worth the short wait. Consisting of two hoi sin vegetable puffs, 2 shrimp rolls, 1 vegetable and tofu roll, and 6 dumplings (chive, beef, scallop and shiitake, seafood, crab, and shrimp). It sounds hard to believe, but in the face of the dinky steamed pouches of goodness, we were totally full afterwards and couldn’t bring ourselves to sample dessert (a shame, as the roasted pineapple and coconut spring roll looked lush!).

There is really something here for every customer, from sharing platters to vegetarian collections, and the staff are always happy to help those who are beginners to Chinese food. Even if you’re a regular at your local takeaway, chances are you’ll experience something totally different here – it’s a fresh take on traditional food, done simply and with high quality ingredients, in a totally satisfying way.

In total, this came to $49.50 including tax (€37, or €18.50 a head; £30, or £15 a head) – and as mentioned, we were totally full and satisfied by the end of the meal. Frankly, you could spend that in McDonalds and not come out with anything near as healthy or delicious. I urge you to visit; put it this way, it’s a good job a loyalty card is among their offerings.

http://www.pingpongdimsum.us/ (US site)

http://www.pingpongdimsum.com/ (UK site)