Korean newcomer Ssal Bori Ssal, Hong Kong’s first makgeolli restaurant - bland food, free rice- wine beauty masks if you’re early
Korean restaurants continue to proliferate in Hong Kong, with Ssal Bori Ssal the latest addition.
Located on Kimberley Street in Tsim Sha Tsui, it brands itself as the city’s first makgeolli restaurant, offering a selection of the cloudy rice wine.
Things didn’t start off well when we made a reservation earlier in the week only to find when we got there that it was the same day as the restaurant’s grand opening party. The staff who took our reservation didn’t realise the clash in dates, so we ended up having to come back two days later.
The operations are haphazard here, and need time to settle into a proper routine. Similarly, the staff weren’t able to give us much guidance on what to try.
We started with a bottle of the house makgeolli (HK$102)– refreshing and easy drinking at six per cent alcohol. Our dishes arrived in quick succession.
The braised pig trotters (HK$260) came thinly sliced with three different spicy dipping sauces and a basket of vegetables – including lettuce leaves to use as wraps. The pork was bland on its own, but better with the sauce and crunchy lettuce leaves.
Next came the kimchi pancake (HK$80) that staff cut up for us with scissors. The pancake was a nice portion for two to share and wasn’t too spicy. Meanwhile, we didn’t quite understand the point of the DIY rice balls (HK$38) – sticky rice with finely sliced dried seaweed on top that came in a bowl. A waitress mixed it for us with a gloved hand and then shaped them into rice balls. We didn’t find it particularly tasty or that much different from plain rice.
The spicy seafood and fishcake soup (HK$150) came in a black pot over a small flame and was chock-full of ingredients including mussels and shrimp, while fish balls and pieces of gluten were put on skewers. The dish wasn’t that spicy, and the seafood didn’t add much flavour to the broth.
At the end of the meal we were surprised to see the Korean owner handing out individually packaged masks soaked in makgeolli to diners – the first 50 every night will receive one. It was the first time we had received a beauty treatment in a restaurant.
Ssal Bori Ssal, Brilliant Court, 78 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2736 8444.
Other places nearby we’ve tried recently:
Restaurant review: Imperial Treasure, Tsim Sha Tsui - delicious Chinese classics from Singapore chain