Christmas dinner at my parents’ house was a fairly typical meal, but on Saturday night our whole family went out for dinner at this unassuming Korean sashimi spot on 22102 Horace Harding Avenue in Queens called Samdado. We’ve been there before, but not in a while, and I’d forgotten just how much food you get when you order a sashimi dinner special to share. We’re talking numerous small dishes, plates and platters of food and just when you thought you were done and there was no more room on the table, the waiters and waitresses would come around with even more dishes of food to put down.
All this for a mere $120, the equivalent of which would get you a 2 or 3 tier fruits de mer plateau at Balthazar or Blue Ribbon. Sure, you don’t get the ambience of a Balthazar by a long shot, or maybe the artful presentation of an impressive silver tiered platter, but what you do get is more than enough food to feed the 5/6 of us (you know, Claudine had like a shrimp). I admit that there were times I’d walk away from a raw platter experience at one of those places after dropping mad money, feeling satisfied but still hungry. And they usually don’t serve raw lobster so fresh that the lobster was still moving a little (!!). Guys, it’s true, and I bet you are thoroughly unnerved right now at the thought of that, but it was an experience even if it was a little too “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman”. Mia was a bit freaked out by it even though she totally ate the raw lobster meat, but Claudine thought the whole thing was funny and would swat at the claws with her chopsticks (see the photo above for her reaction). The very same lobster ended up in a stew that was served at the end of the meal.
I’m always so impressed with Mia’s adventurous palate. That kid will try just about anything, even picking up some gnarly looking clam that none of us wanted to eat. She declared the sea urchin her favorite of the evening (mine too as it was particularly good that evening) and she also enjoyed the various Pa Jun (crisp pancakes), one of which was made from pumpkin.
And those photographs that line the wall around the restaurant? I was told that they are reproductions of images that were taken by an American soldier during the Korean War and discovered relatively recently. Pretty amazing that they are in color, given that this was the early 1950s. The shot of the woman carrying the baby, which we sat under that evening, is especially meaningful. My mother was carried by her grandmother strapped to her back when her family fled with the refugees, on foot, from Seoul to Busan to escape the Communists (some 200 miles). She still remembers this vividly. Her family was separated during the journey at some point. It’s amazing sitting here in that restaurant, given my parents’ history and experiences, that this is the same life. My dad returns to Korea every few years but my mom and I have only been back once since we immigrated to NY in the early 70s, and we were not together when we made our sole visits. We all talked about making plans to go as a family to Korea, with the kids, with my brother…some day.