For two years, I have walked past the SS Korean Restaurant many times. Very close to Okanagan Lake, it’s located at 280 Bernard Avenue. The food pictures plastered on the huge windows always attracted me; yet whenever I peered in, the place looked empty and intimidating to enter on my own.
Deciding on a lunch venue today, my friend Hilarie and I noticed a sign offering a wide choice of lunch deals for $6.95. Entering, we were hit by the vast emptiness for 12:15 p.m. on a Friday in downtown Kelowna.
We decided to give it a chance. I spotted a table with this fan and cute wooden ducks above it, so we sat there.
We admired the carved wooden chairs. They had a high back and were quite comfortable. Each table setting had chopsticks and a medium-sized spoon at the ready.
While helpful in the practical sense of describing the lunch dishes complete with laminated eight-by-tens, the young waitress was not particularly friendly or welcoming. However, the food did arrive promptly. We asked her to take our photo with the lovely wall ornaments.
The portions were large. Hilarie had the Bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish of rice topped with sautéed vegetables and a fried egg. The egg was very runny and she was not able to eat it. Used to having this dish spiced, the chilli sauce was provided on the side. I noticed Hilarie adding dollops of sauce frequently throughout the meal. It was otherwise too bland for her tastebuds. There was kimchee on the side: fermented vegetables spiced to expectation.
I tried the Pork Donburi which is actually a Japanese dish. (There were quite a few Japanese items on the full menu.) The meat and vegetables were simmered with soy sauce (and other sweet-tasting ingredients) poured over rice. There was a lot of thinly sliced meat that was succulent and tasty. I was impressed by the large portion for the lunch menu price.
Towards the end of our visit, 2 tables for 2 became occupied. Still, it was a very slow crowd considering its optimum location, time of day, and day of the week.
The Dining Experience
Quality of Food
The ingredients were of a good standard. We deemed it to be a healthier lunch than many other local options. The food was freshly cooked and served hot.
While we were served quickly, this would be expected as the only customers in a relatively large restaurant. It may have just been our particular waitress, or the type of day she was having, but let’s just say she didn’t appear to be enthusiastic about her job.
Ours was a leisurely, chat-over-lunch style of visit. In our experience, it is customary and cordial to ask if customers want dessert, coffee or anything else. If the answer is no, then to provide the bill and assure the patron that there is no rush to pay. With so few in the restaurant, we’d think they’d want to hang onto any and all customers for as long as possible, if only for appearance’s sake to the passersby.
But not so on this occasion. Almost immediately after I took my last bite, the waitress asked us only if we wanted the bill separate or together. She brought the credit card machine to our table long before we were ready to leave. She stood at our table waiting, making it imperative for us to dig through our purses immediately. Hilarie wanted to pay cash. Feeling awkward about requiring some change, she felt pressured to pay by card, too, to make it easier for the waitress. We both felt uncomfortable about this.
The wall decor was interestingly quirky, and we loved the chairs. There were gumball machines in the entrance-way. It was a throwback to childhood, but I was curious how long the gum may have been in there considering the slow traffic. The wide open plan emphasizes the emptiness and I suspect is intimidating to others who might otherwise be curious to dine there, too. Some booths or dividers, even floor plants, might diguise the empty echo, creating a more cosy, welcoming feel.
The restaurant was reasonably clean and tidy.
Value for money
We each paid $6.95 for our meals. This was excellent value for money considering it was a hot, sit-down meal for less than the price of a take-out deli sandwich. Healthier, too.
For a quick, cheap and filling, relatively healthy lunch, I recommend SS Korean Restaurant. Based on the food alone, I’d score my dish 3.5 stars. (Hilarie would have given her’s a lower score.) The overall score was brought down to 2.5 stars based on service and ambiance, which was fair but far from impressive.
It is also disappointing that this restaurant does not appear to have its own website (at least not one I could find through Google). I like to learn about a restaurant and see the menu choices and prices before I may be tempted to dine there again.
The main menu is quite large with many options averaging around $19.99 a dish. Although I am not qualified to comment on dinner here, based on my lunch experience I would not likely take the risk of those prices. While the food quality is fair, the ambience and service was lacking. I am open to changing my mind if invited as a guest — but I’m not willing to pay those prices for it. I’ll definitely go back for lunch, though.