Ken’s Oriental Restaurant

The outside of Ken's Oriental restaurant in AthloneKen’s Oriental restaurant in Athlone is a bit of an institution, spawning numerous spin-off restaurants around the town.

The inside of Ken's Oriental restaurant in AthloneLocated quite centrally, it’s easy to miss Ken’s, as it resides above street level above Mary’s discount store. The interior is full of circular, open areas and the main dining area has some striking skylight decorations. Ken’s boasts a full bar and a slightly upscale Chinese eating experience.

Unfortunately, the food is nothing to write home about. While not bad, the grand layout of the place and the crisp, black-and-white-clad waiting staff would lend one to believe that one is in for something special.

It must be said that the dishes are not nearly as greasy as your standard Chinese takeaway fare and, in my last visit, everyone else thoroughly enjoyed what they ordered. I, unfortunately, made the mistake of ordering the most cliche of all gringo-loved Chinese dishes: sweet and sour pork.

Chinese food at Ken's Oriental restaurant in AthloneNow, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this dish. The most common wrong way is to smother the ingredients in a vinegar-y sweet heavy syrup that obliterates all taste. At Ken’s the sauce was surprisingly light, but the dish itself was awful. The overbreaded chunks of . . . pork? I really couldn’t tell what was inside the diminutive fried lumps on my plate and they were so overcooked as to have achieved the texture of hardened chewing gum. Instead of being overwhelmed by its sauce, my dinner was almost without any sauce, making for a very dry meal of badly cooked meat over boiled rice.

The ensuing indigestion after lunch did little to help my experience.