Initial reports of Sik-gaek, a Korean restaurant in Flushing's Murray Hill, implied that it’s a buffet-style barbecue spot. After walking from the 7 train to the corner of 149 Pl. and Roosevelt Ave., an entirely different kind of restaurant was encountered.
Sik-gaek isn’t a barbecue joint, it’s the Korean equivalent of an izakaya. A quick Chowhound search reveals that this type of drinking establishment, known as po jang ma cha, can be found in basements and portable tents all over Seoul. And with its uncomfortable stools and graffiti-scarred walls, Sik-gaek certainly fits the bill.
It's like a funkier version of Village Yokocho, with soju and beer standing in for sake. There’s no banchan offered, but once you get situated the waiter fries up an egg or two over a sterno. While you’re mulling over the menu a plate of dduk bok e, chewy cylinders of rice cake in spicy red sauce lands on the table. If you’re wondering what’s up with the comic strip on the menu, Sik-gaek is named after a popular Korean graphic novel that’s since been turned into the film Le Grand Chef.
Mo dum jo gae is a steaming pot overflowing with clams, mussels, shrimp and gigantic snails. The latter prove especially difficult to extricate from their shells. If you've got any friends who are knitters, you might want to ask them to bring a crochet hook. Be sure to dip your mollusks in the accompanying hot sauce. Ssa sa mo, a huge platter of salty fried smelt packed with roe might be one of the best bar snacks ever, but why it's sided with a mountain of shredded cabbage drowned in Russian dressing is anybody's guess.
Feeling like you had a bit too much too drink? Get an order of bu dae jiigae, a sizzle platter loaded with bacon, sliced hot dogs, pepperoni, cabbage, green and red peppers and thin slices of steak. Dip the meat in a slurry of hot sauce and mustard and think of it as Korea's answer to the infamous Garbage Plate.
Sik-gaek, 40-01 149 Pl., Flushing, 718-460-4564