Saturday, January 15, 2011

A second bite of Sik Gaek Seafood Grill

At the Korean Grill RestaurantImage by vasta via Flickr

If you're a jazz fan, you might think of "Jumpin' at The Woodside" during your visit to Sik Gaek BBQ & Seafood Grill in the Woodside section of Queens, but that tune by the Count Basie Orchestra would be drowned out by the loud, pulsing Korean and American rock that gives this restaurant such energy.

Let me be quick to say we didn't see customers eating live, wriggling octopus tentacles -- a signature dish at this Sik Gaek and the original in Flushing, as you can see in a You Tube video by clicking on the Web site link below.

I've even read customer reviews on the Internet that describe a live octopus thrown on a seasoned hot plate to make it "dance" or "jump."

My son and I stuck to conventional seafood and had a delicious meal, but we ordered way too much and took home plenty of leftovers. The turn-off here might be the obscene lyrics of some of the American hip-hop songs, not the all-out, red-pepper assault on your senses. 

We love spicy food, so we ordered everything hot and weren't disappointed. My sniffles were drowned out by the loud music as my paper napkins piled up at the side of the table.

Right after we were seated, a server turned on the gas burner in the middle of the table and fried us two eggs, over easy. After we placed our order, we got a plate of spicy rice cakes and an egg souffle commonly served in Korean barbecue restaurants. 

Still, I had to ask for kimchi, and it wasn't as good as the fermented cabbage we loved at the Flushing restaurant. 

Our first entree was barbecued mackerel -- a whole, butterflied fish about a food long and slathered with a thick, spicy sauce ($14.99). The fish was moist, with crunchy bits at each end. My son ordered stir-fried crabs and a pot of them in the same sauce was placed over the burner ($29.99).

I sucked on a few shells and legs, but my son was delighted and able to find some crab meat. 

It was clear we couldn't finish the fish or crabs, so we asked a waitress for some rice, and she came over, spooned out the crabs and stir-fried cooked rice, vegetables and what I think were small cubes of cooked octopus into the spicy sauce  ($4.99).

The few spoonfuls I could manage to eat were fantastic. Our meal ended with refreshing cups of cucumber juice.

The Woodside Sik Gaek is a smaller than the Flushing location, but the shouted greetings and farewells from the staff are no less enthusiastic, the menu is the same and it's easier to get into. Sik Gaek offers $99 pots of mixed seafood if you come with a group.

When we arrived, we pushed and pulled on the door between the vestibule and dining room, but it didn't budge until a waiter came over and slid it open. The restaurant is next to a taxi garage, in the shadow of the elevated subway tracks, in a neighborhood of Irish pubs and taco joints.

The walls in Woodside are covered with newspaper pages, photos of customers and staff, and dollar bills covered with Korean and English writing. I saw, "So hot" and below that, "Go for it."  

Sik Gaek BBQ & Seafood Grill, 49-11 Roosevelt Ave. 
(near 49th Street), Woodside, Queens; 718-205-4555. Also,
161-29 Crocheron Ave., Flushing, Queens; 718-321-7770.
Web site: 

Anthony Bourdain and David Chang eat wriggling octopus

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