We went to Sik Gaek in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens NY over the weekend, and it was one of the most amazing and authentic food experiences I've ever had. Their specialty is "Chul pan" or "iron plate" cooking at the table.
We arrived around 7:30 in the evening to an already packed restaurant blasting hip hop (I do recall hearing the whole Marshall Mathers LP) with a small line of eager diners. I sense lines are common here as they have a roofed area specifically for people waiting to get into the place.
Once seated, they quickly whet our appetites with fried egg made on the hot grill. We started with one of their specialties, San Nakji, or raw octopus.
The octopus is dispatched just prior to prep, and it's legs are quickly diced up and brought to table, still moving. You can select from 2 sauces, the spicy gochuchang or the sesame oil & salt.
Now I'm a fan of tako wasabi in Japanese cuisine, but that is usually from a frozen octopus. The san nakji was just so amazingly good because it's that much more fresh. Will a minimal struggle as the suckers still work a little, it was oh so worth it.
We ordered a nice Gilghuri Tteokbokki, the rice dumplings in spicy sauce with fishcake and hard boiled eggs.
The grand part of the meal was the Nak Bool Combi Chulpan. Imagine hotpot with a spicy broth loaded with veggies like bean sprouts, cabbage, & cucumber. It's then filled with seafood like mussels, shrimp, baby octopus, and giant clam. Within the broth there are rice dumplings and noodles.
Our order included thin slices of raw ribeye, and then the staff pulls a live octopus from the tank and just plops it on top. Sure it moves for a short time, but is soon cooking in the boiling stew.
The end result is like a Korean flavored bouillabaisse. The clams were large, the octopus was so tender, and towards the end, the veggies, noodles, & dumplings have soaked up so much of the broth, they were fantastic.
Oh, did I mention the drinks. We ordered Oiju, a cucumber infused soju that was clean and mild in flavor. Next time we go we need to get the Soobakju, watermelon soju served directly from the melon.
Sik Gaek is worth the trek to New York City's outer borough and worth any wait in the line outside the place- just a truly great food adventure.
A couple more videos from fougoo (from the opposite angle):
161-29 Crocheron Ave
Flushing, NY 11358