A couple weeks ago, this conversation happened over a dinner outing…
Friend: Eh just now I went to this new Korean place with my colleagues for lunch, and you know what happened? We got to eat for free!
Me: What??! Why? They doing some sort of promotion?
Friend: No, there’s no sign of any promotion whatsoever. I think it is because their service sucks, but who cares, free lunch!
So last Friday, I related this eat-for-free place to my lunch mate. We decided to try our luck and see if we too, can get free lunch…
The place is called Ssambap, have absolutely no idea what it means in Korean. It is located in Krystal Point, on the same row of shops as the equally new Mizi Bistro (I might pay this one a visit soon) and that rather popular 辣妹子 Lameizi steamboat place.
The place is rather small. There’s two rows of with a few booths each, their total seating capacity is most definitely less than 50. I think this is the norm for most new eateries in Penang nowadays.
The walls have a layer of woods, and there’s a big Korean looking mural on one side. (I think) I can vouch for the Korean-ness of the interior, not because I have been to Korean before, but because I have see a few Korean restaurants in Korean TV series.
I’m not sure if this place is any authentic, to be honest. The waiters are all Nepalese/Burmese, not a good sign. But I did overhear a woman saying to a man at the back of the shop (I presume they are the owners): “Oppa, !@#$%^&* se yo? !@#$%^&* im-nida“. I don’t speak Korean, but I can grasp enough to know they are speaking in Korean, now that’s a good sign.
Anyway, so the menu came, and we saw that they have set lunch items. At RM 19.90, you get a choice of BBQ pork, banchan (side dishes), a rice, a soup, and a drink. Seems like good value for money, so we went for it.
For the drinks, I went for green tea, and the lunch-mate went for orange juice, because when she asked the waiter “Is the orange juice fresh or just syrup?”, the waiter replied “Fresh!”.
Yeah, fresh my foot. I think he meant poured fresh from the carton, or orange syrup with fresh orange slice.
Our soup and condiments came quickly.
I think they served us the same soup that they use as base for the doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew). There was a generous amount of radish and potatoes in the soup. I thought it was very nice…
Then the banchan (side dishes) came…
I was quite disappointed that there was no kimchi when the banchan was served. Nevertheless, we arranged them nicely, took a picture, and began to dig in on the broccoli.
And then, to our surprise, more stuff was served shortly after…
Oh dear… we did not expect this. Usually, only the more expensive, high end Korean restaurants here will serve us more than 4 dishes for banchan. This… 10 side dishes… it feels like we’re dining in luxury. I particularly liked the ikan bilis (fried anchovies) with peanuts, although I don’t think that is a Korean thing at all. The lunch-mate loved that black bean dish.
Finally, our mains came. I was actually quite worried that the BBQ would leave my clothes smelling wonderful. That would be bad, because it was lunch time and we had to go back to work after lunch. Especially when it is also the month of Ramadan, and I have fasting Malay colleagues in the office. Thankfully, the BBQ meat for the lunch sets are done in the kitchen and served to us in sizzling teppan plates instead.
We had two different types of BBQ mains…
The meats were pretty good. The samgyeopsal was very tender, and the jeyuk bokkeum was very flavorful.
We were there at 11.35 AM, the place has just opened for business, so it was relatively empty. But by 12 noon, the place was full house, and there were a bunch of people waiting for tables. I guess word has gone out about how cheap and good value for money this place is. Or maybe it was just because this place is new and everyone wants to try it. Or maybe it was the eating-for-free so everyone wants to try their luck.
No, in the end, we did not get to eat for free. But then, we also did not get horrible service, so I guess it was alright. Yeah, there is the typical communication issue with those immigrant waiters, but then, like I said, this is a typical issue that we face in most places in Malaysia nowadays anyway, so I’m not going to kick up a fuss over it.
I definitely think that at RM 19.90, the set lunch is good value for money. Well, not exactly RM 19.90, there’s a 10% service charge and 6% GST to contend with. But let’s just say that this could be my new favorite place to get some Korean grub in Penang from now on…