Archive for January, 2009

Top Chef, Season 5, Episode 8

Posted in Food on TV on January 16, 2009 by restaurantouring

Down on the Farm

As always, you should stop reading if you don’t want the ending of this episode spoiled for you.

Quickfire

Things kick off with Hung, the winner of season 3 of Top Chef, as the guest judge. Fabio knows that Hung loves fresh food, and he sees a tarp covering something rectangular, so he thinks that there is an “ah-kwah-rium” down there. Fabio’s expression, and the way he says “aquarium” is so funny, you have to see it for yourself. I’d buy this episode on iTunes just for that.

Hung was the fastest chef in Top Chef history, and in his honor, the chefs have to make the tastiest dish possible while not using any fresh ingredients. Padma removes the tarp, revealing pantry items — most of which are terrible products that self respecting chefs would not use. Though the labels have been editted out, you can see various items which include the follow: Vienna sausages, wheat germ, Velveeta, canned soups, vegetables, fruits, and clams, box-mix mashed potatoes, canned fish, canned chili with beans, canned crab, instant noodles, and more.

In honor of Hung, the contestants are only given 15 minutes to create their dish. Hilarious.

Hosea decides to make a split pea soup with ham/spam. Sounds disgusting to me, but Hung loved it. Jeff is doing fried conch with a pina colada and a coconut dipping sauce. Jamie is taking the easy way out and making a bruschetta with garbanzo beans, marinated artichokes, and bread. Stefan asks Hosea if he can take the rest of his Spam, then proceeds to talk about how he’s a genius and how his soup and grilled cheese/Velveeta sandwiches with Spam-infused baked beans is going to kick everyone’s ass. Leah fries up some waffles and cooks them so hard, they become rock hard. Radhika takes the same route as Jamie and mixes some beans with tahini and toasts some bread. Stefan ends up winning, since he did both a soup AND a sandwich, whereas Hosea only did a soup. Hosea proceeds to kick himself for letting Stefan take the Spam earlier.

Elimination Challenge

The chefs have to cook a seasonal, family-style lunch, including dessert, for 16 people per team. The chefs draw knives and break off into their teams, by protein: pork, chicken, and lamb. Ariane is uncomfortable about being on the same team as Leah and Hosea because she’s the odd one out. Jamie gets placed on the same team as Stefan and Carla, and Stefan causes problems again, as usual. Jeff, Radhika, and Fabio plan on doing some simple, but fresh and seasonal foods for lunch.

The next morning, all the chefs pile into the cars and drive off to somewhere in New York. The signs on the screen say Blue Hill at Stone Barns and I have to pause the video. WOW. Dan Barber is fantastic, and the chefs get to work with the food that’s grown on the farms there.

The menus have to be revised, since they will not be shopping at Whole Foods. Here’s what they’re making:

Team Pork:
– Seared pork loin
– Sausage ravioli with pesto
– Fried green tomatoes
– Grilled corn salad with bacon
– creme brulee

Team chicken:
– Chicken cutlet with grilled corn salad
– Lemon-herb roasted chicken
– Chicken ravioli soup
– Nectarine & Strawberry tartlet

Team lamb:
– Roasted duo of lamb
– Heirloom tomato salad
– Rosemary & garlic-roasted potatoes
– Swiss chard
– Summer berry trifle

Team chicken wins it — that is to say that each of the three chefs win.

Team pork and team lamb are on the bottom.

The bad things about team pork were that Radhika did almost no work, the creme brulee was too sweet, Fabio put too much pesto on the ravioli, and Jeff with the hair made the mistake of cutting the fat off of the pork and cutting the meat off of the bone.

The bad things about team lamb were that there was no teamwork. The lamb was butchered and tenderized when it should have been left on the bone, especially because it was baby lamb, which is already very tender. Then, the roulade was tied incorrectly. Ariane, who does not have as much experience butchering lamb as Hosea, got no help. And again, she had to tie the roasts herself, even though Leah has more experience tying roasts. As a result, the lamb dish turns out terribly, which is especially bad at a place where it is all about honoring your food and elevating it and making it taste as good as possible.

Ariane has to pack her knives and go home. Pretty much everyone is angry.

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A Cook’s Job is Never Done, Part II

Posted in Culinary ruminations and other random thoughts, Home cooking and more with tags , , on January 16, 2009 by restaurantouring

The last time (or the first time, depending on how you want to think about it) I blogged about how a cook’s job is never done, I left you with some frantic passages which tried to evoke the energy and freneticism of the kitchen.  The idea was to give my readers the sense of what it’s like to work in a kitchen and have a million things to do at once.  In retrospect, that tone of voice was probably just me trying to emulate the lovely Shuna Lydon, an outstanding professional chef who also has a blog, which she lovingly named Eggbeater.  She has tons of wonderful posts on her blog.  The difference is that she actually knows what she’s doing, and is able to use that almost frantic, energetic tone extremely effectively.

Me?  I’m just a monkey with a spatula.

In fact, I just read her blog post from Christmas after I finished typing that last sentence, and I’m floored.  I don’t know what to say anymore.  My ramblings and rants are pretty meaningless in comparison, I think.  Ah well.

I was originally going to write a little bit about how I think a good cook makes use of everything and anything it can get its hands on.  For example, say you have a chicken.  You break it down to get the meat and save the carcass for stock.  Maybe you remove the meat from the legs and thighs for stir fry or skewers and use those bones for the stock as well.  Grill the breasts or something.  Use the skin for a galantine.  Use the giblets for garnish or to fortify the stock or a sauce.  Liver pate or something.

Truth be told, I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore.  I’m calling it a night (it’s actually 3:15 AM, Wednesday morning, and I have work in less than 5 hours.  I just thought I’d get a jump on some blogging so that I could schedule these posts to update automatically).

Until next time, practice your craft, everyone.  And eat more pork.

Crown Palace Chinese Restaurant, Marlboro, NJ

Posted in New Jersey Restaurants with tags , , , , , , , on January 14, 2009 by restaurantouring

I must be in a vengeful mood lately.  I don’t know why.  Well, that’s a lie — I know why, but it has nothing to do with food, so let’s move on.

I’ve got a real problem with this one particular New Jersey Chinese restaurant.  Actually, it’s just with this one particular waiter, who seems to have been promoted recently.  I’ll never understand why, though.  He’s rude, abrupt, inattentive, and he thinks he’s funny (he’s not).  I won’t mention names.  Suffice to say that he’s the one with the floppy haircut, almost cherubic smile, bad jokes, and he’s been working there for a few years now.

My family used to go eat there fairly often.  The quality of the food, as well as the quality of the service have all noticeably deteriorated in the past few years.  Often, salt is omitted from some of the dishes, which results in food that tastes almost like nothing.  How could you forget the salt?  Salting foods is one of the most fundamental skills in the kitchen!

They now have a wine list, which is new, but none of them seem to be particularly good.  That, and the asshat waiter might card you, ask you for a second form of identification to verify that you are, indeed, of age, persist in his quest to prove that you are not old enough to drink, and proceed to show you “how to drink wine,” by violently swirling a glass of Riesling, spilling it on your jeans, not noticing this, not apologizing, and then, finally, having the audacity to stick his nose up in your glass to take a long, disturbing sniff.

The thought still irritates me, even after these past couple of months.  We’ve not been back there since, but I have a feeling we will inevitably find ourselves at the mercy of this ignorant swine again, sooner or later.  There are only so many good Chinese restaurants in our area.

Next time, I’m going to West Lake (Google it, New Jerseyans.  West Lake is decent eatin’).

Crown Palace Chinese Restaurant is located at 8 N. Main St. in Marlboro, NJ.

West Lake Chinese Restaurant is located at 1016 State Route 34, Matawan, NJ‎.  Call ahead to reserve a table for larger parties:  (732) 290-2988

Riingo, Restaurant Week, NYC

Posted in New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by restaurantouring

Riingo is the Japanese word for apple.  This is fitting because I don’t like apples very much.  I think they’re pretty bland.  I think they’re pretty boring.  Kind of like red delicious apples.  It’s misleading, actually.  They may be red, but they are not that delicious.  And I often find that my red delicious apples have gone mealy on me.

In a way, you could kinda say the same thing about Riingo, which is located in the Alex Hotel, at 205 E. 45th St.  Riingo is pretty bland and boring and all of the above.  To boot, I had pretty terrible service there, although I’m somewhat willing to let that slide for them this time (One of my guests was over an hour late for dinner but the restaurant was kind enough to honor our reservation — by seating us in the worst booth in the house, where there was a ton of foot traffic, and the servers kept slamming drawers into the back of one of our seats whenever they needed more silverware.  Fantastic).

First Course

The food was pretty awful, too.  We started off with a roasted beet salad that was very visually impressive and very bland in taste.  Again, I apologize for the lack of pictures.  All the pictures I took have been lost in a broken camera phone.

We also had some beer-braised short ribs with hearts of palm and an apple puree.  I didn’t think the apple puree tasted anything like apple, and figured they would have done a better job just smearing a spoonful of some store-bought applesauce onto the plate.  The short ribs were okay, but could have been much more flavorful.

There was also a salmon avocado roll, which was the savior of the night, because it was just like any other salmon avocado roll that you could have gotten at any sushi buffet anywhere.

Second Course

The three entrees we had were as follows:

Soy-glazed salmon, bulgur wheat, scallions. This has been updated on Riingo’s menu to be fried rice instead of bulgur wheat — probably because the bulgur wheat was terrible.  I bet they don’t do the fried rice very well either, sadly.  Also, the salmon was very one-note, and not very tasty at all.  It barely tasted of soy, for starters.

Chili roasted chicken, shiitake mushrooms, water spinach. The single dryest piece of meat I have ever eaten in my life, evocative of jerky.  Inedible.

Grilled hangar steak, Japanese sweet potatoes, plum sauce. I freaking hate when I see plum sauce on a menu, or when I hear people talk about plum sauce.  Why?  Because it never actually turns out to be plum sauce.  It’s hoisin sauce.  There are no plums in hoisin!  Real plum sauce is divine.  Hoisin sauce is cloying.  To boot, why the hell should I pay $25 for overcooked, tough steak that’s been drizzled with about a penny’s worth of “plum sauce,” which I can get by the pint at an Asian grocery for two bucks and change?  I’m sorry.  This makes no sense to me.

Dessert

Donuts, green tea ice cream. Not bad.  “Donuts”, I think, is copyrighted, especially since America [apparently] runs on it.  Nice job, whoever-wrote-the-menu.  Also, they were not very soft and tender, like how I think doughnuts are supposed to be.  At least the ice cream was good, but then, it’s probably purchased in bulk from someone who actually knows their way around in a kitchen.

Warm Chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream. Why does this dessert seem so familiar?  Ah, yes.  That’s right.  Because I had this same exact dessert, yesterday, at Centrico, only Centrico’s was magnitudes better.  That’s why.

Summary:

Do yourselves a favor and don’t eat here unless someone pays you to do so.  Even then, I’d be reluctant.  Sorry, Riingo.  Try harder.

Modern Mexican Food at Centrico

Posted in New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2009 by restaurantouring

I’m starting to dislike restaurant week.  I know, I know . . . I blogged during the summer about how much I liked it, and already I’m changing my story like a bad liar in front of his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend.  Maybe I used to like it cuz I was a poor student who barely made 7 bucks an hour working a bullshit work-study job?  Maybe I don’t like it anymore cuz I’m a big boy now, with a a big boy job, making a big boy salary, wearing big boy pants, and eating big boy food? (Besides All-Clad and Shun, maybe Huggies should throw me some cash, too? Okay, okay . . . I’ll stop. On with the food. . . .)

While I used to think it was great to go out and eat at a discount, the more restaurants I eat at for Restaurant Week, the more I realize that most places simply put simple-to-prepare, bland, uninspired dishes on the menu, knowing that plenty of people who normally do not eat out very often will flock to their restaurants looking for a good deal.  In most cases, they will not find one.

Centrico, owned by chef Aarón Sanchez, is different.  You may know Aarón from the Food Network – he was the host of this show called Melting Pot.   I’ve never seen it. I’m not even sure if they still show it. Food Network sucks now anyway. Except for Good Eats, which I mostly watch on YouTube (but that’s another blog). Or, more recently, he was on The Next Iron Chef America competition during the summer of 2007.  He was my underdog favorite, despite making some silly mistakes early on in the competition.  And if that still doesn’t ring any bells, you may (and I hate to do this to ya, Aarón) know him because of his mom — the fantastic Zarela Martinez.

Located at 211 West Broadway (near where West Broad intersects Franklin St.), Centrico gave me the most food out of any restaurant so far for restaurant week.  To boot, none of it was the usual tex-mex-type fare that some people I know automatically think of when they hear “Mexican food.”  You want more?  Here:  it was all very tasty.

Of course, this is no longer an updated, relevant blog post.  I’m recalling my meal from this past summer’s restaurant week, so if that turns you off to this post, feel free to stop reading now.

For the rest of you, I’ll continue, since I didn’t get a chance to blog about this place during the summer — a shame, because the food was good and plentiful.  My bet is that the menu for January 2009’s restaurant week should be pretty promising as well.  Additionally, I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures.  I took a bunch with my camera phone, but that phone has since decided to stop working on me, so all was lost.  Sadness.

First Course

The four courses offered at Centrico started off with a platter of guac and chips for my two guests and me.  Although it wasn’t terribly impressive (the guac could have used much more lime and the chips were really thick.  Plus I would have liked way more salt on the chips, but I really like salt . . .), it was nice to have something to munch on while we perused the drink menu.  We all agreed that it was a nice gesture to offer another “course,” considering all the other places we’d been to seemed to try to skimp as much as possible.

Hoo boy, I can tell I’m not inspiring confidence in any of you, but hold on.  I’m serious.  This was a good restaurant.

Second Course

For the appetizer, we ordered all three items on the menu: the platanos rellenos, ensalada de mercado, and the camarones y pozole.

The plantains were probably the favorite of the 3 apps.  It was a twist on the chillis rellenos — a hollowed out section of mildly sweet plantain, filled with smoky black beans, and finished with crema fresca.  The smokiness of the beans were evocative of bacon, almost, and I had my doubts as to whether or not there might be some porcine play going on there.  Vegetarians be warned: ask ahead.

The salad was actually quite boring, despite sounding delicious when described: Mesclun, shaved chayote and jicama, hibiscus vinaigrette.  I have no idea what hibiscus tastes like, but the vinaigrette did not impress me or any of my fellow diners that evening.

The shrimp appetizer was very tasty, as well (We decided we liked the plantains just a little better because it was delicious and we’d never had a plantain that had been stuffed with smoky beans before).  The shrimp were sauteed and paired with a creamy gaujillo chilli sauce before being poured over the top of crispy triangles of pozole/grits/polenta.  It was creamy, rich, and delicious.  In fact, I briefly contemplated asking for a bowl of the sauce, topped with a few more of the beautiful shrimp, so that I could have it as a soup.

Third Course

I had the birria al estilo Jalisco, the braised short ribs, Jalisco-style, which was paired with an earthy, flavorful ancho chile broth.  It wasn’t not too spicy, since anchos aren’t very spicy at all.  Rather, it was deep and complex.  The ribs came with tortillas and some fixings, so that you could make your own mini burritos or tacos or whatever.  This was my favorite of the night.

One of my friends had the pollo a las brasas, which was probably the best damn chicken I have ever had in a restaurant so far.  Pieces of chicken are marinated with chipotle, lime, and garlic.  They are then pressed as they cook, so that the meat comes out dense and flavorful and super moist and tender.  When the dish arrives, you can really smell the garlic and lime, though I could have used a little bit more of the chipotle.  This was very close to being my favorite (and it probably should have been, except I have a thing for short ribs, and a thing against chicken in restaurants).

Finally, there was the pescado veracruzana, the pan-roasted market fish.  We had the option of having either salmon or mahi mahi, and chose the latter.  Tomatoes, olives, serrano chillis.  Not bad.  Not great either, but fresh and clean tasting, so no complaints.

Fourth Course

I had the molten mexican chocolate cake, and we also got the flan de coco and corn ice cream.  I have to say, I do believe corn ice cream must have been the invention of some genius.  It was probably a grandmother.  A mad, genius, darling, wonderful grandmother.  Bless her.  I’ve found my favorite flavor of ice cream, and it tastes like cold, sweet corn.

The flan was nothing special, though it was very good.  The molten chocolate cake was delicious, except that it was not Mexican, plus I had the same exact dessert the very next day at another restaurant for restaurant week.  The SAME cake — down to the details of sides and top of the cake (assembly-line-manufactured, it seems).  Oh well.  In Centrico’s defense, theirs was far superior.

Summary:

If you plan on going out for restaurant week, please consider going to eat at Centrico restaurant, located at 211 West Broadway.  A vast majority of the options are everyday a la carte items, so the staff are experienced in preparing these dishes.  The end result is a consistent dining experience and a true bargain (as far as eating in Manhattan goes, anyway).  You’re also full after your meal, unlike the time I went to eat at Megu, where I was seriously contemplating buying a dirty water hot dog after dinner.  Order one of the specialty cocktails (I had the one with jalapenos in it.  Interesting and tasty.  Zesty, I might say).  If offered again, I’d go with either the shrimp or the plantains for the app, either the chicken or the short ribs for the main, and most definitely the corn ice cream for dessert.  Anything you choose will most likely be pretty good.  You can thank me later for suggesting the corn ice cream.

Top Chef, Episode 7, Season 5

Posted in Food on TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2009 by restaurantouring

Welcome back to Top Chef, everyone!  It’s been quite a while, since no new episodes aired over the holidays.  This is the first new episode in about 3 weeks!

As always, do not continue reading this post if you don’t want the episode spoiled for you.

This week, I’ll do a really quick update on the show.  Major props to Catie, “the editor,” for filling me in on the details live, since I won’t be able to download this episode until iTunes decides to stop sucking and make the episode available for me to download.

Quickfire

The guest judge is pastry chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, and the challenge is to make “the ultimate sweet treat” without using sugar.  Jeff thinks he’s got this challenge in the bag.  Jamie decides not to make a dessert.  Hosea is doing something with peaches and figs.  Arianne is using diet Dr. Pepper.  Carla gets angry at everyone constantly opening and closing the fridge, cuz her bananas aren’t freezing properly, so she finally has to saute them with walnut oil.  Stefan is being Stefan.

Top Chefs: Radhika, Leah, and Jeff

Bottom 3: Ariane, Jamie, and Carla

Winner: Radhika and her whole wheat challah bread pudding with sauteed white peach, honey roasted cashews, and ground ginger.

Double Elimination Challenge

This one is a free-for-all.  The judges wanted to see exactly what these chefs could do, since they desperately need to prove that they know how to cook if they want to succeed on the show.  So far, the food has been pretty disappointing, despite the first episode’s dishes being very strong.

The cheftestants are split into two teams.  The twist is that they will be judging each others’ food.  Radhika chooses to be on the team that Stefan is not because she thinks that Stefan causes too much unnecessary tension.

Fabio rolls pasta.  Jamie cooks scallops.  Again. Fabio comments: “This is Top Chef, not Top Scallops!”

There’s a new judge:  Toby Young.  He is filling in for Gail.

Judgement

They love Jamie’s scallops.  They don’t like Eugene’s whole red snapper at all — it’s bland.  Melissa’s dish tastes like cat food.  Leah screwed up because she attempted something she had never done before.  Carla’s scallops are far too garlicky because of the gremolata she made to go with them (I never liked the taste of raw garlic much either, and I would only use it sparingly with strongly flavored items, like beef or something).  Also, Carla’s risotto was called uninspired.  Stefan is ecstatic that Colicchio liked his dish.  Jeff’s collection of hors d’oeuvres seemed to be disliked by all but Toby.  Ariane sauteed a skate wing.  Melissa is worried about her fish tacos and who will be going home tonight.

Top Chefs:  Ariane, Jamie, Stefan

Bottom 3: Melissa, Eugene, Carla

Winner: Jamie (Thank God.  Finally!)

Losers:  Eugene and Melissa.  Pack your knives and go.

Mmmm. . . . Live Octopus . . .

Posted in New York restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2009 by restaurantouring

The sign outside

About two weeks ago, I went to this new Korean BBQ place in Flushing with my sister, my dad, and my dad’s girlfriend.  The place is freakin tasty, so don’t let the atmosphere fool you — it’s worth it.

Immediately upon entering through the sliding wooden doors, all the waitrons in the place greet you in Korean and make you feel at ease.  I’d say that they try to make you feel at home, but personally, I don’t own tables with large gas burners in the middle.  I’m guessing most of you don’t have those either, so until then, you’ll have to be made to feel at ease.

The immediate impression is that the seating is almost cafeteria-style seating.  The tables are pushed together into long rows to save space, and all the rows are just a little too close together to be totally comfortable.  For example, I think I was elbowing the poor guy behind me all night.  It was unintentional, I swear!  Even if he was being loud and obnoxious.

Also, for the most part, you’re pretty much rubbing elbows — or even sharing tables — with other patrons.  There are posters of K-pop artists and icons all over the place.  The decor is kind of tacky.  Chopsticks, spoons, and napkins are located in cylindrical canisters between tables, and you pretty much just serve yourself.  While this may serve to keep overhead costs down for the restaurant (and hopefully translate into lower prices for you, the customer), it can still be a little . . . discouraging; but, this is only disappointing if you’re used to fancier fare and service, and it is quickly quelled (thankfully) as soon as the food arrives and the savory aromas hit your nose.

While traditional, run-of-the-mill Korean BBQ choices are available (various seafoods, meats, veggies, etc. that you can grill on the central burner), it was suggested that we try something different.  So, we ordered the “San-Nak-Ji-Chul-Pan,” and thank goodness we did.

The complimentary appetizer was eggs.  A nonstick skillet was placed on our burner, and it almost fell into the fire because it was so cheap and poorly balanced — even after 3 eggs were cracked into it.  A premixed seasoning is sprinkled on top of the eggs — it looks simply like salt with a tiny bit of finely ground black pepper, and it didn’t taste like there was anything else in it.  After the egg cooked and cooked and cooked and no one came by to do anything about them, we decided to just eat them, since they were already totally cooked through.

Our server arrived shortly after we finished to whisk away our egg pan, crank our burner up to high, and slap down a huge, boiling, two-handled pan, which was almost overflowing with three different sizes of clams, mussels, crab, lobster, calamari (rings of sliced squid, I should say), baby octopus, shrimp, bean sprouts, and enoki mushrooms.  Underneath all the seafood was udon and Korean rice cakes swimming in a flavorful kimchi-based broth.  Tasty.

As if that weren’t enough, our waitress comes back to our table after we had been eating for a few minutes to offer some . . . additions . . . to our already-very-full pot.  The additions?  Octopus.  Two of them.  At first, I was puzzled why a restaurant would choose to freeze octopus into these flimsy aluminum pots for service, and I was even more puzzled as to why no one had the forethought to thaw them so that the waitress wouldn’t have to try to pry frozen blocks of seafood out of a pan that barely fit them.

Then, I realized (as I watched the faces of everyone around me grimace) that the octopus wasn’t frozen at all.  They were still alive.  And the effort our waitress was exuding in removing these critters from the pot wasn’t because they were frozen to the container, but because the suction cups on each of the tentacles had grabbed onto the sides of the vessel, and were struggling to keep the octopi firmly inside, where it was apparently safe.

This was a futile effort, whether or not the poor octopods knew it or not (probably not, since octopi be some duuuumb aminals), since our waitress (who was of diminutive size, I assure you) fairly easily tore them away and tossed them into our pan of boiling hot seafood-kimchi-noodle love.

creepy

crawly

and trying to get away

If the thought of watching a creature slowly die before your eyes just minutes before you will be eating it disturbs you, I strongly suggest you leave the table for a few minutes before returning and devouring everything in sight.  Go to the bathroom or something.  Go wash your hands.  Again.  Take a walk around the block.  If you smoke, chew a piece of gum (smoking kills).

Do I have a problem with eating an octopus that I watched die just several minutes earlier?  The apparent answer is “no,” since I ate half of one of the octopi almost immediately.  In reality, and in restrospect, I do wish that the octopus had died more quickly.  Being boiled alive doesn’t seem like a pleasant way to die at all.  The only difference between watching this cephalopod boil to death and boiling a lobster or crab is that the latter two are usually done inside a covered pot.  Here, the writhing and squirming is quite visible for all to see (including the neighbors to my right, who were visibly disturbed by our strange delicacy).

On the other hand, this place forces you to look your food in the eye (literally), which I appreciate, since the food we get at the grocery store comes so nicely and conveniently packaged and pre-butchered.  Beef does not look like a cow.  Pork does not look like a pig.  Even chickens don’t really look like chickens, since there are no feathers.  I think we’ve gotten too comfortable with our convenient, carnivorous diets.  To me, if I can’t eat something that I watched die, but have no problems with eating meat from a much larger, much more intelligent animal which died to feed me, I’d be a hypocrite.  I could elaborate, but maybe I’ll save this for another post?

That being said, the octopus was delicious.  It got tough after a few minutes, which was as expected, but we allowed it to simmer for a while longer, and the flesh became tender again.

Charlie

Charlie Park, the owner of the establishment, came around to greet us and to schmooze with the other patrons, and asked us what we thought of the food so far.  The octopus, apparently, was a delicacy that he had specially ordered from the waters around Korea.  “You eat this, and you’ll know what ‘smooth’ tastes like!” he exclaimed, as he cut up the tentacles into bite sized pieces for us.  We were eating something special.

cutting up the octopus

Rice

After we finished all the shellfish and tossed the shells into the trash buckets that were provided for us, our waitress brought out rice to cook with the remaining broth and leftover bits of seafood and vegetation.  This way, nothing was wasted, and all the fantastic, flavorful broth was used up and eaten — just the way I like it.

Cucumber juice

In lieu of a more familiar dessert, we were given cups of cucumber juice — pureed and strained cucumber, very mildly sweetened.  In Asian cuisine, you must have balance.  So, after having had a lot of spicy seafood, something light and cooling was required to balance out the meal.  What better way to end a meal?

Summary: This place serves really good, fresh seafood.  The complimentary appetizer (eggs, sunny side up) is apparently DIY, so serve it before it overcooks.  The “San-Nak-Ji-Chul-Pan” is for at least 4 people and costs $79.99, though 6 people could probably make a very good meal out of it and still be full.  If you have a problem with watching living sea creatures (octopus, obviously) writhe in agony as they boil to death before your eyes, order something else.  There is also a smaller version for 2 people for about half the price.

Restaurant Sik Gaek, 161-29 Crocheron Avenue, Flushing, NY 11358.

Phone: (718.321.7770)

Owner: Charlie Park

Chef: Son