Korean restaurant review: Ssal Bori Ssal in TST, Hong Kong
A casual Korean spot in TST with the best makgeolli collection in town
It’s been nearly two and a half years since I moved to Hong Kong, but somehow I haven’t gotten used to the crowds in Hong Kong yet. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. The crowds in Central don’t faze me anymore, but the ones in Causeway Bay, TST, and Kowloon Tong (at least their MTR stations) still do! And especially during rush hour…
But I like to say I’ll travel far for food, and while Kimberley Road in TST isn’t exactly the boonies, it is about a 15 minute walk once you even get out of the expansive TST MTR station. Discovering a hidden gem in an unfamiliar part of town is such a treat though so I’m glad I finally went down to try Ssal Bori Ssal.
The tiny Korean spot is owned by the same family that started Momojein (my favourite modern Korean restaurant) and GaGaHoHo (a homey, great value spot in TST), so I was super interested to see how the food differed. I suppose the main difference isn’t even the food, but that it houses the largest makgeolli collection in Hong Kong. It was my first time trying the fermented rice/wheat drink (also known as the drink of Korean rappers, farmers, and old people), and I was surprised by how varied it could be. Honestly, it mostly tasted like beer to me but the chestnut one was distinctly light yet creamy, and very fragrant. A nice colder weather sip. One of the new things on Ssal Bori Ssal’s menu is this makgeolli tasting platter ($138), handy if you are a makgeolli fan or just curious to try how varied it can be.
There are also five new food items on the menu.
After seeing a friend’s results on the ketogenic diet, I thought about doing it for a few hours. But I think I’ll be a lifelong carb lover, because I just can’t give up delicious foods like savoury pancakes. This pancake platter ($198) has six different varieties. While they were all good, my favourites were the gummy (in a good way) kimchi ones and the crispy chive and shrimp ones. The coolest though was probably the pork-stuffed chili ones, made into “pancakes” by being battered. I’d definitely go back again for this and the chestnut makgeolli; girls night, set.
Another favourite was the Triple Beef Ssam platter ($420). While this isn’t cheap for a casual Korean restaurant, it’s plenty for two or even three people. The striploin and kalbi were pretty melt-in-the-mouth, and tteok kalbi (like meatballs) is one of my fatty food favourites. I was happy just eating the meat and picking at the sides, and I suppose there’s no wrong way to eat this, but the platter does come with lettuce wraps and all the fixings if you want a little health with your indulgence. That said, platters like this scream comfort food to me. I wish they delivered to my apartment, because this is the perfect OTT order for a solo night (or weekend) in.
Our table also tried the other new dishes but none were real winners for me. The Jumbo Seafood Soup ($440) had serious kick, like a less sour tom yum, and was very generous with the seafood, but I thought it was too pricey for soup. The Samgye Fried Chicken ($189) was an entire deep fried bird, and the description that it was stuffed with glutinous rice, ginseng, red dates and garlic sounded cool. Flavour-wise, the chicken was moist and just salty enough but as far as we could tell, the stuffing didn’t do anything for the flavour of the chicken and vice versa. The Spicy Pork Stew ($230) had a tasty base with licorice-tasting perilla leaves but it was more like a thin broth.
I’d go back to Ssal Bori Ssal again the next time I’m looking for a casual, different than usual spot for dinner. The decor is casual and the stools aren’t the most comfortable, but the overall vibe is very chill and there are a number of super tasty, comforting dishes on the menu.
Shop B, Brilliant Court, 78 Kimberley Road, TST, 2736 8444