Sunday, May 22, 2011

Paradise for seafood lovers?

LobsterImage via Wikipedia

We had a delayed birthday dinner for our 14-year-old son on Saturday at Sik Gaek, a Korean restaurant in the Flushing section of Queens where you can watch seafood being cooked alive in steaming hotpots on the table.

Many customers choose one of the live-octopus hotpots, but we wanted lobster and asked for the mixed seafood hotpot. Others, our server said, eat octopus raw and wriggling as it goes down their throats.

The menu says the lobster is pan-roasted, but our hotpot came with a live whole lobster and live abalone. My son said he saw the lobster's claw cut a mushroom. I felt a little queasy.

Mussels predominated, but the broad, shallow pan on our table burner included a spicy broth filled with large and small shrimp and clams; squid rings, baby octopus, conch, bean sprouts, cabbage, mushroom, fat noodles and cylindrical rice cakes. 

Some of the seafood was tender, some of it chewy and some of it tough, especially the baby octopus.

At $79.99, the hotpot would feed at least four or five people, but my son insisted on ordering his own dish -- a spicy stir-fry of whole crabs he enjoyed at Sik Gaek's smaller Woodside branch last year ($29.99). He asked for it extra spicy.

The three of us entered to shouted greetings from the staff. The dining room of heavy wood picnic tables and backless plastic stools pulsed with American and Korean rock music.

When we sat down, servers in black T-shirts cooked us an appetizer of three eggs over easy in a frying pan on our table burner, and brought us rice cakes in a spicy sauce and,  later, a steamed egg souffle and kimchi.

We saw a couple order sweetened soju, a Korean spirit made from yams, served in a hollowed-out watermelon half with a little paper umbrella stuck in the rind. 

Midway through my son's meal, he asked for fried rice ($4.99 extra). A waitress mixed hot white rice and fish roe with the spicy sauce in his crab fry. I tried a couple of spoonfuls and it was extraordinary.

We took the hotpot leftovers home in the biggest takeout container I've ever seen.

Sik Gaek B.B.Q & Seafood Grill, 161-29 Crocheron Ave., 
Flushing, N.Y.; 718-321-7770. 
Reservations recommended on weekends.
No American Express cards accepted.

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  1. That soju drink sounds pretty cool, so I figured I'd try the home version of it. Went to Whole Foods, but they didn't have any half watermelons so I bought a whole one for $8.99, cut it in half and hollowed out the half. I didn't have any yam wine so I used Ernest & Julio Gallo Napa Sonoma Pinot Grigio, would you believe that darn half a watermelon held three fifth bottles of the stuff? At $6.99 a bottle, I probably should have just got a half gallon of Ripple. And one of those little paper umbrellas, fuhgeddabouddit. I had to use a golf umbrella. I woke up three days later. Now where did I put that hotpot?

  2. That hotpot sounds pretty good although $80 is pretty steep.

  3. I agree, but if you feed six with it, it's a better deal.

    We didn't even take the broth and noodles, and put them in bowls as a soup course.

    And I would have asked for shrimp instead of all those tough little octopi.


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