After over three years slinging border-hopping Asian drinking food in Chinatown, the shoebox-sized Ping is about to get a serious upgrade. The restaurant will close on the first of the year to double in size, expanding into an adjoining space to the east of the restaurant.
According to co-owner Kurt Huffman of ChefStable, the team behind Ping (including developers John and Janet Jay) has been interested in the expansion for a long time. "I've been talking to the landlord about our neighboring space once every three months for years," says Huffman, "and she finally reconsidered. Since then, we’ve been working to figure out what we’re going to do with all the new opportunities."
After a remodel, the new Ping will house 80 to 85 seats in 2400 square feet, including a new lounge area and private dining room. The bar will move into the new side of the eatery, and the kitchen line will be extended to where the current bar sits. A bigger kitchen means more room for menu exploration: “Before, we just couldn’t explore certain cuisines because we didn’t have the space to do it," according to Huffman. "In the future, types of food that just weren’t viable will become possible."
Hand in hand with the remodel, Huffman and the Jays will bring on a new chef partner to transform the menu into something they can call their own. While the identity of the new chef is under wraps, expect a shift from the drinking food menu put in place by previous co-owner Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame.
"Andy’s been out of the project for over a year and a half, though he's been helping us here and there," Huffman explains. "The critical thing for me is bringing on a new partner so that Ping operates like our other restaurants, with culinary leadership that expresses the viewpoint of a talented chef. We have a really dynamic lunch business, so we have to work to avoid alienating our existing diners, but the cuisine will change enough to let the new chef partner own the menu."
Though the food and drink offerings will certainly undergo some changes, the concept will remain Asian-inspired, thanks to the owners' solid commitment to the neighborhood. Huffman and the Jays have a 30-year lease on the space, and the entire team is sticking to their original goal of developing Chinatown. "Ping has always been about the neighborhood," adds Huffman. "We just need to create restaurant that fits better with what that neighborhood wants."
2013 could see a lot of changes in the Chinatown area: John Jay is also involved in the development of The Grove, a 135-bed, Asian-themed international youth hostel that is now set to open in Chinatown in 2013 on West Burnside, mere blocks from Ping. The new building will be anchored by seven retail spaces on the ground floor, drawing more foot traffic to the area during the day and creating demand for more dining options.
Ping's reopening hinges on the plans of the new chef partner, but could be as early as March 2013. Stay tuned for further developments here on Eat Beat.
Want to be a part of Ping's last hurrah of 2012? The space will host a prix fixe New Year's Eve dinner
for couples, starting at 6 pm. Call Ping at 503-229-7464 to make a reservation.
102 NW Fourth Ave