Westender Korean Restaurant – Review

Westender Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Date: Dec. 27th, 2013
Time: 7PM
Setting: 5 people in total, half packed, low noise, great KPOP on two TVs

First of all, if you have been here before, but not recently, the water has changed.

I came here with a group of friends who had eaten here a while ago, and liked the food here. So we decided to give it a try. The first thing that struck me was how small it is. Well, to me, I appreciate the environment of the restaurant, sometimes, more than the service I receive. The satisfaction of eating in a place I enjoy is the key to a nice meal and a wonderful night. I am not saying the place looks like crap, but the style the owner is going for did not appeal to me. It looks like an 80′s bar in Cuba, definitely not the mainstream Korean restaurant look.

Since I came in late, and the waiter/waitress didn’t approach me for water until she came to us to get the order for food–10 minutes later, my first impression wasn’t that great. Comparing to Cactus Club or other modern Western restaurants, I can definitely see the difference. HOWEVER, I do understand that it is not some of restaurants’ forte to train their staff, either focusing on cost reduction, or focusing on the quality of food. So, I let it go.

When it was time to order, I realized how simple the menu is. Indeed this can be a good thing, but I want my gosh darn choices, please! Oh well, maybe the food will be fresher, as suggested by some of my friends. So I just ordered the BBQ pork belly (~$10) and rice (~$1.50). Apparently, it’s their signature dish, simply thin slices of pork belly grilled to well done.

I am definitely a beef/chicken person, but I’m not a hater, so I went with it. Five of us all ordered the same thing, and plus rice. Soon, two plates of pork belly came. Two of our friends were praised to be “lucky”, and how they should go gamble at River Rock to grab the real cash. The rest of us waited. After a while, no more came. Then we realized that another group who came in later than us started to receive their food. Something is not right.

Having asked the waitress, we realized that we were supposed to share the food. The owner even came to give us a lecture about how we should have shared it first, so it will not lose its tasteful crispiness, etc. Well, I do understand that the intention is great and I love the concept, however, they shouldn’t have assumed that we would “shared it just like MOST of others” just because we were all Asian looking (I totally guess that this is basically why–this is what gave the owner the idea that we would behave like most of others). And since he used the word “most”, then he should have realized that some of us don’t share food (On the side note, the culture of not sharing food bothers me a little since I was raised in a culture where food is to be shared, not divided into portions and served. I totally understand the benefit of doing so, and I still do it at home! And this is such a good idea of saving money and developing long lasting friendships, or romantic relationships–in my opinion).

The food tasted okay, nothing special. To be honest, I can do the same. No lies. If you ask me, and if I know you well enough, you may be able to enjoy this dish from me. True story. In addition, all the side dishes are okay, ‘refills’ weren’t charged.

After food, we decided to get a pitcher of beer for $10 (after 8 PM special). We tried to tell the waitress to get us Canadian, but clearly they only serve Koreans. Okay, bad jokes aside, she didn’t understand what we were trying to get since her English wasn’t that good. Oh well, the owner got it for us though.

When we finally proceeded to pay, things got a bit crazier and comical. First, we were told that we wouldn’t be able to split the bill, because the owner/cashier didn’t remember what we ordered (And my first thought was: so can we just leave now without paying since you probably don’t even remember us coming in here?) As a result, we were ‘forced’ to write down every single item we ordered. And when the owner realized that we forgot to write ‘rice’ down, instead of simply remembering the fact that we all got rice, he had to write the word down on every single Post-it Note® containing our orders. Every single one of them. I am not sure if that is called attention to details, or … Anyway, it was cash only or debit, and their debit machine looks like it has been used as a prop in an 80′s movie. It’s like one of those calculators you bought when you were a kid, and destroyed for science. I should’ve taken a picture of it, but at that point, I just wanted to leave. Also, we have to tell them how much we want to tip them. Yeah, we have to tell them that. When my friend offered to leave $1.5 as tip, the owner said something along the line of, just tip $2 instead. I think he misinterpreted the definition of tip. He must had been thinking about the definition of auctioning.

Even with all of these crap I had gone through, I still tipped 8%. (On the side note, I never had the gut to not tip, the owner looks like my dad. Well, my Korean dad if you will.) The total came to $13 after tax and tip for the pork belly and rice. It was definitely not the most expensive, and indeed not the cheapest meal I had, but it felt like I had just lost $13 in a casino.

To me, what completes a great dinner besides socializing with your friend over great food and drink is the other stuff that I care about: service and environment. For environment, I would give it a 7/10, but for service, it’s merely 5/10. The five is for not screwing up anything we ordered, but we ordered the same thing. Quality of food is 7/10, and price is 7/10. This gives this meal a 26/40 or 65%. And I am being generous.

Conclusion: Bad service, okay food and environment. Price is not the most competitive, considering it’s the West End not Downtown. Will not come back again.

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