It has been so long since I wanted to go to Sik Gaek in Woodside to try their live octopus, but I needed to find adventurous people to come with me to have a fun experience as Jodi categorically and understandably refused to come with me. So, I went on a Friday night with two of my colleagues, Abe and Fabien. I was not sure what to expect besides a crowded restaurant: not crowded when we showed up at approx. 6:45pm, but then, it filled up with quite a lot of people there to enjoy Korean food. I like the feel of the place, that has a rustic feel with all the wood, but a fun side with its large TVs playing Korean video clips and the walls covered of photos, graffitis and bills from all over the world.
There are two sections: tables and then booths. I immediately noticed that they did not try to maximize the number of tables in the restaurant, leaving some space in the middle and making the experience comfortable. We were seated in a booth and noticed a button that is used to call the staff who was equipped with an ear piece to receive instructions. Efficient.
We started off by ordering some beer (Kloud) and, of course, some soju, choosing the Jinro Chamisul Classic that was the strongest on their menu and not aromatized.
With our drinks, they brought us some banchan, slightly different from the usual I got in Korean restaurants, besides the kimchi that is fairly classic and sort of expected. There were rice cakes that were in a red sauce that was not spicy, as well as fried eggs, one per person.
Then came the live octopus: I admit that I was a bit worried that we would go and they would tell us they did not have any that day! But no, here it was, moving on the plate, the movements slowing down as time passed, but still quite a lot, making it even more difficult to grab some of it with the chopsticks. But, when you get one, you need to make sure you dip it well in the sauce they give you so it does not stick into your mouth. Taste wise, there is so much sauce all over it that you cannot really taste anything. Texture wise, it was not as slimy as I expected...And no, you do not really fill something moving in your mouth as your are quickly going to chew on it.
We also ordered some marinated beef ribeye that was cut thick. It was presented sitting on a bed of onions that I could care less except when it the top that had a nice taste of the marinade and beef. I then took some lettuce, and wrapped a pice of meat with some gojujang sauce. I loved it: the beef was delicious, being juicy and tender.
At that point, we decided to order another dish and went for their seafood hotpot as they seem to be also known for it. As we waited, they brought us, complimentary, a soju bomb, made with beer and sprite, where you drop a shot glass of soju.
When the hotpot came, I found it beautiful, with lots of seafood: shrimp, clams, mussels, octopus (not live this time), calamari and lobster, as well as a white fish that I did not recognize but might have been tilapia. My favorite besides the lobster (that had to be eaten quickly so it would not be overcooked) was the clams that were superb. However, it looked big, but the bottom was mainly made of cabbage and bean sprouts, with not enough noodles.
As they did not have dessert, they offered us some watermelon juice that was a good palate cleanser.
We had fun at Sik Gaek and the food was good, although a bit pricey. It is definitely a place where I would go back for the live octopus, for a dare dinner with family and friends. By train, taking the 7 line, it is not that far and worth the trip if you are adventurous.
Enjoy (I did)!
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Sik Gaek - 161-29 Crocheron Avenue, Queens, NY 11358