When it’s your friend’s birthday and all he wants is a group outing to a Korean restaurant in Queens for some live octopus, you do it. Especially when he’s taunting you saying “C’mon, Tony did it!” – referring to a visit Anthony Bourdain paid to the restaurant as a part of a No Reservations episode back from 2009. Ok, fine. I decided if my friend was on it enough to coordinate “reserving” one of the only twenty-something octopuses being flown in from Korea that I would give it a try. When else would I have this opportunity?
I would list out exact menu items ordered, but I’ll be honest. I don’t know names for most of the dishes we had. The menu was mostly in Korean, and if you visit Sik Gaek’s website, it’ll appear all in Korean, even when you click for English. We started out with some beef fried dumplings, thick pork belly, and a soju watermelon.
When it came to the main course, we let the birthday boy order. We ended up with the seafood hot-pot, preceded by sashimi. There were others who ordered a variety of more standard Korean fare – beef and noodles and a massive shrimp dish of sorts (their shrimp was amazing). When it comes to the sashimi and the hot pot, perhaps it’s best I save my words and just share some videos of what our experience really was like.
The birthday boy makes this look easy.
The video here where I finally tried it? Decidedly less refined. I only had a small bite – which was all I ever intended to try. I’ll confess, it wasn’t my favorite. I far prefer charred octopus to the chewier variety, and this definitely didn’t have that char layer. And I was so paranoid about not chewing it enough for the wiggling business not to be an issue that I couldn’t really think too too much on the taste. It was definitely an adventure and I’m glad I joined in on the experience.
Following the sashimi, the giant hot pot with all sorts of seafood came out. There was lobster, more octopus, abalone, conch, shrimp … so many things. They claimed it served 3-4 people – a statement we’re still confused by. The pot was massive, and there were at least 6 of us picking away at it, with it seeming to go nowhere.
As if that wasn’t enough, once we decided we were mostly done with it, the workers pulled it off the flame and turned it into a big pot of fried rice. No additional charge. We weren’t too hungry, so we told them just 2 servings worth of rice. The result was way more than we were prepared to handle, all topped with cheese. It was definitely a unique dish. This was just overall a restaurant full of surprises. It was a fun change of pace to do for a birthday, for sure. Great outing for a group!
To finish of the celebrations, the birthday boy’s girlfriend had brought his favorite cake from Veniero’s – cannoli cake! Which we all ate with, what else – chopsticks!
Fun night in Woodside! Anyone else out there tried “live” octopus before? Thoughts?
Sik Gaek – 49-11 Roosevelt Avenue – Woodside, Queens – 718.205.4555