Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sik Gaek BBQ & Seafood Grill

Korean Seafood Hot Pot

 My 12-year-old son's eyes bulged as he watched a waiter pluck a live octopus from a tank, slap it on a plate and serve it to a customer.

We were seated at a table with a skillet of shrimp cooking over a round gas burner last night at Sik Gaek BBQ & Seafood Grill in Flushing, N.Y. -- a few hours before we picked up my wife at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Hey, if we had to go through the hassle of driving to JFK, we might as well reap a food reward on the way there.

Sik Gaek pulses with shouted greetings from the servers and loud Korean rock music. Many customers gather around huge pots of steaming seafood cooking on their tables and wash down shellfish, lobster, shrimp, squid and more with Korean beer, soju or sake.

As my son watched the tanks of live seafood, including lobsters and sea urchins, I faced a line of hungry people that began forming soon after we arrived around 7:30. One of the waiters brought over a platter of Korean dumplings for them.

After we were seated on short stools, a waiter turned on the table burner, put a frying pan with oil over the flame and cracked two fresh eggs into it, cooking them over easy. That was our first side dish. Following that were rice cakes in spicy sauce and some of the best cabbage kimchi we have ever had. We got two more kimchi refills during the meal, plus white rice, which costs $1 a serving.

We couldn't manage one of those big pots of seafood (photo above is generic), which run from $30 and up, so we ordered barbecued shrimp ($19.99) and a whole mackerel in spicy sauce ($14.99) and drank iced water from a bottle on the table.

The shell-on shrimp, with heads and tails, cooked on a bed of coarse salt in a glass-covered pan. They were terrific, head and all, dipped in mild or spicy sauce. The mackerel -- which was butterflied and grilled in the kitchen -- was mild, juicy and fresh, the skin nicely charred. We took home leftovers of both entrees. The meal ended with small cups of refreshing cucumber juice.

I asked a waiter the meaning of the restaurant's name and he replied it would too complicated to explain. In any language, it's a wild scene, with great seafood and service.

Sik Gaek BBQ & Seafood Grill, 161-29 Crocheron Ave.,
Flushing, N.Y.; 718-321-7770; open seven days. 
Web site is in Korean.

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