Kelley and Ping, Soho, NYC

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The restaurant business in Manhattan is like everything else in the city, cutthroat, survival of the fittest. There is a statistic floating around that says 80 percent of NYC restaurants fail in the first year. So to find a restaurant that dates back to our first stint in New York in the 90s is like rediscovering a long-lost friend. And it surely means that it is doing something right to stay in business all these years.

Kelley and Ping is that old friend. We hadn’t been back in years (Soho isn’t on our route unless taking friends sightseeing) and we were pleased to find it still open. It was 2pm on a Sunday and there were plenty of tables, so we thought we’d go see how our old friend was doing.

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Our friend still makes a good first impression. Housed in an old Soho cast iron building, it boasts soaring ceilings and funky decor of colorful masks, rice pans and terracotta army-style warriors. Self-described as a Asian grocery and noodle shop, a counter selling tea and sundry items sits in the front near the bar. We headed towards the food counter in the back.

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The menu was still pan-Asian: Malaysian curry, Japanese bento boxes, Vietnamese Pho, Pad Thai, and still wallet friendly (lunch is self-service—you order and pickup when called—so we can’t rate the dinner table service). After an afternoon of over-priced window shopping we were ready for a fortifying lunch and we plunged in.

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Clockwise from top: Som Tum, Steamed Vegetable Dumplings, Asian Antipasto

The good:

  • Som Tum: Green papaya, tomatoes, green beans and peanuts with sticky rice.  Flavoured with fish sauce, lime and chillies, this Thai standard tasted bright and authentic. $8.50
  • Pad Thai: As good as a noodle stand Pad Thai should be. $10.00

The meh:

  • Steamed Vegetable Dumplings: A variety of veggies gave a light crunch to a stodgy doughy dumpling. Too heavy on the dough-to-veggie ratio. Redeemed by a great sharp dipping sauce. $7.50
  • The Daily Asian Antipasto: Basically a choice of the day’s stir fried vegetables. Not inspired, but light and fresh—our selection was based around bok choi. $7.50

The ugly:

  • Pho Bac (advertised as fragrant Vietnamese soup on the menu): A complete disappointment. Seriously, how can you ruin pho? Pho is based on a broth—chicken or beef are the standards. Sadly, this pho was hardly more than hot water lacking any discernible flavour. Faux pho.  The garnishes were scanty. $9.50
  • Scallion pancakes: Heavy, oily, and although crispy on the outside,  doughy and cold on the inside. Hardly any traces of said scallion and far too expensive at $7.50

The upshot: We’re sentimental; if we’re in the neighborhood needing a quick break, the cheerful setting and reasonable prices (it is Soho) mean that we’ll probably just be seeing our old friend for a cup of Thai iced tea and a snack. While we congratulate him on his longevity, our old friend needs to pick up his game and work on consistency. Serving hit-or-miss pan-Asian food this close to Chinatown can’t be good for business.

Kelley and Ping
127 Greene St., nr. Prince St.
New York, NY 10012
212 228 1212

Open Daily, 11:30am—5pm + 5:30pm—11pm

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