Sik Gaek – Fun Korean Seafood and Drinking Restaurant in Flushing
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Sik Gaek is a Korean seafood and drinking restaurant in Flushing. It became semi-famous after it was featured on one of Anthony Bourdain’s episodes on the outer boroughs.
hen a lot of people in America (even foodies) think about Asian restaurants they envision all of them being small rundown restaurants and street food. While that is certainly part of the restaurant scene in Asia, there is a whole side of Asia that is not often showcased in Asian communities in New York (I think this is likely because of the demographic of the immigrants here) such as high end upscale places, drinking establishments, modern restaurants etc. Sik Gaek reflects a small piece of this as it is supposed to resemble restaurants in Korea where you eat, drink and have a good time with your friends.
The restaurant is pretty busy looking with wooden walls adorned with posters advertising soju with famous star like Hyori on them and specials written in Korean on the walls. The crowd is mainly Korean. It’s quite loud with lots of loud conversations and drinking, but it is definitely a fun atmosphere. The service is generally pretty decent and I’ve always found the servers to be pretty nice.
On to the food:
- Fried Egg: At the beginning of the meal they bring you a few eggs that are fried in a pan. It’s pretty simple, but they taste pretty good when you put some gochujang (a semi-sweet Korean chili paste) on the eggs as gochujang goes really well with fried eggs. 7/10
- Duk Boki (Spicy Rice Cake): They bring you out a complimentary bowl of duk boki as well. Duk bok is a dish consisting of rice cakes and fish cakes cooked in a semi-sweet spicy sauce. While not the best version I’ve ever had, their version is pretty decent. 6.75/10
- Steamed Egg Custard: This dish is eggs cooked with a little bit of water and sugar in a small hot pot. It turns into a fluffy egg custard. It tastes good and it’s almost impossible to mess up because it’s so simple. 7/10
- San Nak Ji (Live Octopus Sashmi): This is my favorite dish here. It is octopus that has been sliced up right before they serve it to you. I’m sure this is going to freak a lot of people out because it’s still moving when they serve it to you. It is a misconception that it’s still alive, but it does still move because it was literally cut up right before it is served to you. The octopus obviously tastes very fresh, it’s not rubbery and I really like it with either the gochujang or the sesame oil with salt and pepper. You do have to chew it so it doesn’t stick to the side of your mouth since it is still moving (I can see about 80%+ of people reading this cringing and vowing never to order this). I recommend trying this as it is definitely my favorite dish here. 7.5/10
- Steamed Seafood in a Sweet Pumpkin: This dish was interesting. It was squid, octopus, shrimp and kabocha in a spicy red sauce covered topped with melted white cheese. Kabocha is called Japanese pumpkin, but is actually a type of winter squash. It’s orange, sweet and starchy (I love kabocha). It was interesting, I like all ingredients separately, but I couldn’t decide if I like them all together. You could definitely tell that it’s one of those dishes that someone probably invented in the last decade or so. It was decent, but not amazing. 6.75/10
- Assorted Seafood Hot Pot: This is a gigantic iron pot filled with about every type of seafood you can think of: lobster, clams, abalone, octopus, squid, oysters, shrimp and a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting now. It also has noodles as well. The broth is a light spicy broth. I generally like all the seafood, but because there is so much of it and the pot is so big inevitably some of it gets way overcooked. The broth turns out to be pretty tasty because the combination of the seafood flavor and the spicy broth is nice. This is a great dish to drink with as well. 7/10
- Fried Rice: At the end of the seafood hot pot, they put rice in the leftover stew and stir fry it with some dried seaweed and sesame oil. This is very tasty perhaps even more tasty than the actual hot pot itself. 7.5/10
- Steamed Shellfish: This is a gigantic pot with water and just like the assorted seafood hot pot it has about every type of seafood you can imagine. I find the seafood easily gets overcooked and it’s too plain. I’m not much of a fan of this dish. 5.5/10
- Noodles: At the end of the steamed shellfish they use the remaining water that has now turned into a very light seafood broth and cook some noodles in it. It’s also better than the original dish as the broth is sort of refreshing and the noodles go well with it. 7/10
Overall, I don’t think the food at Sik Gaek is amazing, but some of the food is pretty good and it is a great place to go have fun and drink with friends.
161-29 Crocheron Ave, Queens, NY 11358
"Overall, I don’t think the food at Sik Gaek is amazing, but some of the food is pretty good and it is a great place to go have fun and drink with friends."
Sik Gaek is, above all, a drinking place. It's generally festive, crowded and, as you say, fun. What sets it apart from other drinking places like, say, nearby Goo Gong Tan (sic), is that you are just as likely to see tables full of families, with kids, as you are to see tables of young people and post-teens making merry. My kid digs the octopus tank and the street signs/traffic lights as much as he does the seafood.
The seafood is hardly top notch, but it can be okay. Again, it's only part of the point. The more soju you drink here, the better everything tastes. The after-noodles that you describe are my favorite part; I love the way they absorb the juices and broth. It's a great touch. The times we've gone, they use udon-style noodles. We've also enjoyed the fried rice.
The menu is seafood-heavy, so that's the thing to get. Those who are either super-drunk, or who have a caste-iron stomach, crazy or all of the above can go for stuff like Budae Jigae. My wife had this stuff when she was going to college in Seoul, and describes it as the perfect dish to have after a bender. It's basically a stew that throws a ton of stuff together, including instant ramen noodles, pork and the main ingredient, Spam, together into a world-class gut wrencher. Again, it's not the best thing to get here, but the later it is, and the drunker you are, the better it will taste. It's almost criminal to have this if you're able to walk a straight line.
They also melt thick gobs of cheese over a surprising amount of stuff here. But do yourself a favor and go for the live octopus instead.
At least that's supposed to be moving.
Thank you for the review!
Interestingly enough, I didn't find them good enough and I think I had a signal: just check out their steamed egg custard. As you said, it is such a simple dish, but I, myself, often judge Chinese restaurants by their 豆苗 (is it fresh, does the chef have a light hand, does he respect the regional cuisine he claims to represent: enough to differentiate a real chef from a boy with strong hands). Likewise the steamed egg, while perfected in Japan and neglected in China, seems to be a measure of quality in Korean food. I might be wrong though.
Thank you again
diprey - the steamed egg custard generally tastes close to the same everywhere i've had it (i dont think ive ever had a bad one), my gf made it and it tasted perfect the first time she tried b/c its so simple to make. if you're talking about chawanmushi, i think that is a dish that is much easier to mess up. i generally agree though that if u screw up simple dishes its usually a sign that the rest of your dishes will be bad. although i guess i can think of one exception off the top of my head, the salt baked squid at imperial palace isn't very good, but i think its the best chinese restaurant in NY generally
erica - thanks!
Lau is right to point out that most steamed egg custard taste similar in Korean restaurants that usually serve this as bonus, it's hard to screw up this dish, and focus of this place isn't really heavily weighed on quality. Though Sik Gaek isn't a place for discussion on subtleties, I would have to agree with diprey11 that many times making simple dishes right is what defines the quality of restaurant, and it sets the tone for rest of the meal to come. While I enjoy them when they are served as bonus, I have to say that it is something I would not order off menu if offered in the states. It really taste substantially better and even sublime when done right. My mom always comments when she makes this dish that she regrets not learning how to make this right from her mom. Similar findings for banchans many Korean places serve as well.