This is the tale of a restaurant with separate personalities.
Shin Sa Dong serves delicious Korean food. At a lunch visit, the service was excellent, the waitress answered a lot of questions and water glasses were kept filled. While the food was equally good at a dinner visit, the service was inexplicably poor and the atmosphere was such that I won't return.
But let's start with the food. There's an odd feature to the menu - they don't use the usual anglicized Korean names for dishes. So instead of seeing "kimbap," you'll see "rice wrapped in seaweed" ($8.99). The kimbap, by the way, is difficult to order. At lunch we were told it wasn't ready (at noon), and at dinner they had run out (at 6 p.m.).
The Rice Cake & Vegetables Mixed w/Spicy Sauce ($8.99), also known as tteokbokki, is a spicy dish of chewy rice cakes, onions, scallions and fish cakes in a robust sauce fragrant with chilies and garlic. The portion is enormous.
The Sauteed Clear Noodles w/Meat & Vegetables ($8.99; known as japchae) is listed as an appetizer but is easily large enough to stand as an entree. The springy sweet potato noodles are stir fried with scallions, beef, shredded carrots, mushrooms and onion, then topped with sesame seeds. This is a fairly mild dish, where the flavors of the beef and vegetables dominate the sauce.
The lunch specials are served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and run $8.99-$9.99. The beef Bulgogi is a large serving of succulent, thinly sliced beef, which has been marinated and grilled with scallions, onions and carrots. The marinade is a wonderful blend of garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and a touch of sugar to bring it all together.
The colorful dish known as dolsot bibimbap is called Rice Topped w/Spicy Sauce, Vegetables, Beef, Egg Served in a Stone Pot ($9.99). The stone pot allows the rice that's the base of the dish to develop a crunchy side from the heat of the serving vessel. The rice is topped with cucumber, julienned carrot, crisp tender broccoli, mushrooms, sliced beef, bean sprouts and lightly sauteed spinach. The whole dish is topped with a soft fried egg, the yolk of which blends into the rice and vegetables as you mix it together at the table.
A few minutes after the rice dish was served, the Spicy Korean Sausage Soup ($10.99) came to the table, bubbling in a small black pot. Another name for it is Soondae Guk, with soondae being the Korean equivalent of blood sausage, with the addition of intestines and sweet potato noodles. The chili-rich broth is bright and pungent, full of flavor.
Several minutes later, the Sauteed Spicy Chicken w/Vegetables ($12.99; known as dakgalbi) arrived. The chunks of chicken are sauteed with carrots, onions, scallions and spinach along with a brick-red, chili-forward sauce that isn't too spicy.
I don't usually belabor a restaurant's atmosphere, but there was one aspect at dinner I can't ignore. There was a child approximately 8-10 years old who was allowed to shout insults and expletives at his mother and at another child.
This was not a customer's child. And he was allowed to continue at full volume until he tired of cursing and yelling. This was the backdrop for probably 30 minutes of our meal.
Another note is that between getting the food and receiving the check, probably 20 minutes after the last person finished eating, we didn't get any service. No one asked how our meals were and we didn't get any water refills, unusual for a spot that serves spicy cuisine. So while the lunch experience was pleasant enough, the dinner visit was an experience I don't want to repeat.
Restaurant character: This place serves delicious Korean food, with wildly vacillating service. Definitely go at lunch time for a more pleasant experience.
Rating total: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars
Ambiance: 2 out of 5 stars
Service: 2 out of 5 stars
Address: 3845 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 80909
Contact: 638-2695; no website
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: Can ask to have dishes prepared without meat but must ask specifically if broth is prepared with chicken or beef.
what's online As of March 28:
? 87 percent of 31 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon
? 3 out of 5 stars based on 19 reviews on Yelp
? On Facebook but not active; search "Shin Sa Dong Korean Restaurant"
? No violations requiring follow-up were marked after October inspection by the El Paso County Health Department