Years ago, I watched an episode of No Reservations where Anthony and Momofoku’s David Chang went to a Korean restaurant in Flushing, NY to eat live octopus sashimi. Last weekend, I was in Long Island visiting friends and knowing that Flushing wasn’t too far away, I suggested to go see what the live octopus sashimi hype was about at Sik Gaek Chun Ha.
We ordered the hotpot and opted for the fresh octopus sashimi option. Before long, our server returned with a fresh plate of raw squirming octopus bits. There we were, staring face first at squirming tentacles, trying to figure out who would be brave enough to stick their chopsticks into the wiggling mass.
I readied my chopsticks and went in. Right from the beginning, it was a losing battle, my poor chopstick handling skills placed me at a disadvantage. The squirming bit of octopus was difficult to pick up, especially with the pieces that latched on to the plate. Just when I had a piece in the vice of the chopsticks I couldn’t help but notice it trying to “wiggle” itself loose. Disturbing indeed. I didn’t bother to chew at first, and I could feel the suction cups latch on to my inner lip and tongue. I guess that was my cue to start chewing.
And chew I did, so much that I just didn’t bother to chew anymore and swallowed the partially mangled pieces whole. It probably wasn’t the smart thing to do, since I heard that the tentacles have been known to stick to the throat. There isn’t much flavor to it. The salt and sesame oil dip, as well as the hot sauce, made things go down a bit easier.
Amidst the loud music, all sounds seemed to fade away for a few seconds when I saw the server bring out the hulking mass of boiling seafood hotpot to our table. The hotpot is a seafood lover’s paradise. There are different hotpot set options and we chose the rib-eye and seafood combination. The standard fanfare of clams, mussels, shrimp, baby octopus, and squid were all there, but what impressed me was the inclusion of fresh cooked abalone and conch. Noodles, kimchi cabbage, and rice cakes rounded up the rest of the ingredients. The portion size is pretty amazing, one order of hotpot feeds 4 to 5 hungry adults no problem.
Sik Gaek Chun Ha is a great place for anyone who loves Korean food, seafood, a lively atmosphere, and also for those who are feeling a bit adventurous.