Now, here's an interesting little story I can all recount for you lot. You see, last month was my birthday, so I went out for some dinner. Now, I could have gone to somewhere ordinary. A good slice of pizza is a perfectly acceptable standby. And I have a longstanding fondness for good sashimi.
But no. It is time for something more adventurous.
So we head down to Sik Gaek, this amazing Korean place in Flushing. The place is abuzz as usual, with the lull roar of relaxing young couples and businessmen amidst the bubbling of lobster tanks. The whole place is decorated with big posters of Korean Models, and it smells faintly of kimchi and beer. Now, I have been to this restaurant once before, but now I have a singular goal in mind. That goal being some maewoon tang.
Ah, but first a salad!
Yes, atop a bed of lettuce and some hot peppers are a batch of freshly caught and snipped octopus tentacles, still wriggling. After a brief warning to be sure to chew them thoroughly (The suction cups are still quite functional, and the darn things can get caught in your throat!) we dig in.
Its admittedly a bit of a challenge. They're often too slimy to pick up with chopsticks, and when you get them by hand, they cling on as tight as they can. But oh, is it worth it. They're chewy, but they have a very light taste, almost lemony, certainly very fresh. You can practically picture yourself plucking it right out of the ocean, that's the sort of taste it has. Ah though, this is just the warm up. The main course comes next.
That maewoon tang I mentioned? Its a great big pot of seafood, complete with razor clams, snails, muscles, crabs, scallops, conch, abelone, and a full lobster, all in a bright red broth. Its placed on a little gas stove built into the table, and continues to boil the food while we eat. (And it needs to! That lobster is still alive when they first bring it to us!)
Ah, but that is not all. With the stew brought to the table, a waitress comes over and tops it off with another octopus, this one intact and still quite lively. Technically, you are supposed to wait until it is cooked through before eating it, but I am impatient.
The taste... Oh goodness, where do I begin. The broth is pungent and spicy, adding just the right hints of flavor to the mild octopus, which still squirms as it goes down. The lobster is absolutely perfect, fresh and light and with a natural buttery taste. The crab meat is sweet, especially the thin strip of yellow roe at the back of their shells. And the abalone, which I have never had before, is very chewy, but with that wonderful fishy sweetness that all good shellfish have.
Ah, it was a wonderful time, and a great deal of fun. I know some people are somewhat squicked by the concept of eating live food, but there is just something exciting about it to me, like going on a culinary adventure. This sort of thing is what I really like about New York, that you can have all these different cultures and their effects crammed in together, hopefully with some of their collective intact.
If anyone would like to try out Sik Gaek, I would heartily recommend it. They don't have a web page, but here they are on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sik-gaek-flushing
Oh, and look, Tony Bourdain ate here as well!