Dim sum parlors, small restaurants native to China that serve small portions of food on carts, are one of the few culinary venues that have yet to grace the laundry list of dining experiences in South Philadelphia.
Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh are looking to change that with the upcoming opening of Bing Bing Dim Sum. The new eatery, located on 1648 East Passyunk Ave., will feature the food and feel of a Chinese dim sum parlor with an American twist.
Bing Bing was named Zagat’s number one most anticipated restaurant opening of 2015 in early January.
Puchowitz and Darragh, both graduates of Temple’s Class of 2006, were inspired to create Bing Bing by Chinese culture within their circle of family and friends.
“My brother’s wife is from Hong Kong, and she kept saying ‘There’s no good dim sum here,’” Puchowitz said. “She and my brother brought me out and I ate [dim sum] in Chinatown, and I thought ‘Oh, this would be a cool thing to riff on.’”
Darragh’s eye for what the Philadelphia dining scene was lacking played a role in the idea as well.
“[Dim sum] is already a big thing in New York and L.A. – everybody loves dim sum,” Darragh said. “In Philly, they’ll do it on the weekends but they don’t necessarily know what it is or do it a lot.”
As far as the cuisine itself, customers can expect to chow down on a sizeable selection of dumplings and filled dough at Bing. True to the spirit of traditional dim sum parlors, the portions will be small to moderately-sized to feed a large number of people a wide variety of food.
With Sichuan cucumber salad dumplings and soup-filled dough bites just a few of the restaurant’s tentative menu options, it’s clear that Bing Bing will offer much more for the palette than just the traditional Chinese joint.
“They’re all plays on classic dim sum dishes and, or traditional Chinese food,” Puchowitz said.
Similar to the Cheu Noodle Bar, Darragh and Puchowitz’ ramen-themed venue on South 10th St., menu options are low-priced to allow for a more group-friendly, laid back atmosphere.
Forever savants of restaurant décor – just check out the graffiti wall inside of Cheu Noodle – Darragh and Puchowitz have decked out the inside of Bing with a slew of traditional Chinese furnishings.
Authentic red and gold emperor beds encase booths with classic Chinese art etched into the back of the benches. Handmade stools and tables by a local Chinese furniture-maker create the seating arrangement within the restaurant. Even windows brought from the far-east sit near the bar, surrounded by a mural of dueling dragons and a colorful city. A wall filled with stickers depicting hoards of cartoon dumplings with varying outlandish faces adds an American urban-art flavor to the space as well.
Puchowitz and Darragh said difficulties naturally arose in the process of building their culinary brainchild from the ground up.
“Trying to get everyone to get work done fast is not easy,” Darragh said. “When you try and build a restaurant, you think it’s going to go by fast but it ends up taking long just because you have to kind of piece everyone together. Not everyone works at the same time.”
As the eatery’s grand opening grows closer, both owners said they hope to keep swift dining, affordable food and happy regular customers a staple of their food philosophy.
“We want to make people have a good time here,” Puchowitz said. “There’s a lot of hype around fine-dining food, but most often it does not meet your expectations, and the reason is the price. We try to do it where people can come in here and eat for under $25 and have a good time.”
“Atmosphere is big for us, I especially love atmosphere,” Darragh added. “We want to make people happy. Between [Bing Bing] and Cheu, it really sums up what me and Ben like as far as atmosphere, food and drink: cheap, affordable and quick.”
Eamon Dreisbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org