Sun Nong Dan turns up the heat


Sun Nong Dan is a Korean restaurant located in Rowland Heights that prides itself on using only the freshest ingredients. As a second-time customer, I knew what I wanted to order. The menu offers a large variety of soups and Soo Yook, a Korean Chinese meat dish with sweet and sour sauce.

The decor was simple, with bare walls, making it appear generic. During the evening, it was crowded but the closeness of the tables made the dining experience unpleasant; therefore, maneuvering around the tables became quickly difficult. The tables had a box filled with chopsticks and spoons, and the menus acted as placemats to eliminate waste in the restaurant.

Getting a table was quick and simple since you could either put your name down through Yelp, or type it up on the iPad. Their service was efficient because they were fast and made it simple to call them. I pushed a small button to call a waiter, who was helpful and provided more insight regarding their many dishes.

I was first served banchan (side dishes) to be paired with my entree: kimchi, radish kimchi and Korean chives. After I tried each dish, I decided that the chives were the best of the three. While every dish had the same combination of a crisp and refreshing taste with a lingering mildly spicy aftertaste, the chives went best with the gochugaru, a Korean chili powder used to season dishes to add pungency and spiciness.

The first item we ordered was the Teuk Galbi Tang, a brothy beef soup seasoned with green onions, Chinese dates and mushrooms. The mushrooms were a nice addition to the soup and added texture while the Chinese dates were used for presentation. It was a simple soup slow cooked with short ribs and served in a stone bowl. It was lightly seasoned yet dull in flavor and thus a poor appetizer to the main dish. The broth itself was too simple and tasted like a standard stock soup. It was a disappointing dish because of  its colorless presentation and bland flavor.

The signature dish of the restaurant is the Galbi Jjim, a braised short ribs dish with rice cakes, carrots, short ribs, potatoes and green onions. The dish was also large enough to feed three to four people. For an extra four dollars, I ordered mozzarella cheese and watched the waiter blow torch my dish at my table. The slow-cooked short ribs were tender, and the dish was covered by the spicy red chili sauce that gave it a consistent but one dimensional flavor. Despite the restaurant’s addition of a sweet and sour sauce, the peppery flavor became repetitive, and the dish started to lose its appeal. While the cheese did add a creamy texture, it didn’t enhance the flavor and was mainly for presentation.

After sampling all the dishes I ordered, I can agree that the ingredients were fresh but were not utilized well. In some cases, the food was too simple, like the soup, or too complicated, like the Galbi Jjim. The vibrant flavors present in the entree made me unable to focus and enjoy a specific taste.

The major downfall for Sun Nong Dan is the high prices for all of the dishes. The medium Galbi Jjim, with cheese, costs $68.99 and the Teuk Galbi Tang is $17.99. Although the presentation was impressive, in the case of the Galbi Jjim, the high prices were unreasonable which makes this restaurant not budget friendly and hard for me to recommend.

Overall, Sun Nong Dan is a restaurant not worth visiting. The monotonous flavor throughout the radish, kimchi and Galbi Jjim became unappetizing and quickly monotonous. In addition, the restaurant’s plain decoration and upholstery made it unworthy of being photographed. The combination of plain design, disappointing dishes and high price made it a lackluster experience.

By Philbert Loekman, Scene editor
Photo by Philbert Loekman