raw, alive and war memories

December 27, 2009 |  Category:   dining out family growing up half holidays

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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.

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  • neta December 28, 2009 at 12:14 am

    That picture of Claudine making the face is too funny !
    Your familiy’s history sounds facinating. My grandparents left their respective countries to escape the holocaust, and didn’t talk about it much, which is sad, as we have little knowledge of our family’s history, and I would have loved to know more.

  • ChantaleP December 28, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Oh yum! I wish we had this type of resto here in Mtl. The food looks amazing! Little Miss C looks just like your mom, it’s uncanny. Looks like a great time had by all over there this xmas. I wonder when your family fled during the war, did any of your family pics survive? My mom’s story is similar but they packed all their family pics on their backs. Still in the frames! Sadly, as the journey went on they threw each frame by the wayside and none survived. They had no time to take the pics out.
    Hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  • quyen huynh December 28, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Love Claudine’s expression! Totally classic.

  • nichole Robertson December 28, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Love her expression!

    I am impressed that Mia tries all of those foods. Perhaps I should get her to give Alexander a few tips. It’s all carbs, all the time here. He’s very picky.

    Sounds like you had a wonderful experience. The photos are especially moving.

  • Perideau Designs December 28, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Claudine’s expression is priceless!

  • martha December 28, 2009 at 10:13 am

    it sounds like an amazing time with your family.
    past and present, old and young all together.

  • Tumus December 28, 2009 at 10:25 am

    That’s a very interesting story. I think this is what draws me to your blog, the human side 🙂

    If you ever do go back, I can’t wait to read those posts

  • jun December 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Your moms so beautiful. She looks like a korean actress “Kim, Ji mee”

  • Nina December 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Let me just say that your mom is so beautiful!

  • patricia December 28, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Love that face!

    My best friend here is Korean. Your post reminds me of the time she invited a group of us to a restaurant to a similar meal. She’s always talking about going to Korea someday with her husband and kids too.

  • Annie From Seattle December 29, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Is your grandmother still alive? That sounds like a story that should be recorded.

  • Brenda December 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Wow, amazing food and experience! Looove Claudine’s expression – priceless!

  • Mrs. Smith December 29, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    That face is PRICELESS!!

  • Lola January 4, 2010 at 5:10 am

    Wow, your mother is stunning!

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