After reading all of the wonderful reports about the Flushing Octoman, my friend and I decided that we finally just had to try it. While singing my own version of The Lollipop Kids, rewritten with lyrics about the Octopus man, we scheduled our visit for yesterday, April 30th.
Driving in from Westchester, I managed to make a wrong turn (even though Id driven successfully to this area before) and we lost an hour getting back on track. When we stopped to ask for directions, we were told You are as far from that area as you can be, and still be in Queens! Thats another story, but by the time we parked in the neighborhood, we were really stoked to visit da man!
We found him at around 6PM, the block was quiet, the scene pleasant. Deciding to try one each at first, we waited with wide eyes as he grilled. The Octopi were somewhat larger than I expected, 2 or 3 to a stick, whereas I had pictured a series of tiny skewered gremlins. A Chinese restaurant near where I live serves a baby octopus appetizer which was the basis for my expectations.
Interesting to note that there was no sign of either pre-cooking or marination; he simply had a tray of pre-skewered critters in the raw.
He motions to the chili powder yes, of course we go for it! The moment of truth arrives
Awful, horrible. I hesitate to use this word, but it was actually quite close to disgusting. Keep in mind that my friend and I are chowhounds, and our eating experiences have been quite adventurous. We take great pleasure from many cuisines, styles of presentation, etc. This was almost completely flavorless. And tender? Farthest thing from tender that I could imagine. I ate the body of one of them, and actually HAD to swallow the tentacle section whole. No amount of chewing would get that flesh to yield. I suppose that I was the luckier one, as I had the stick with the 3 smaller ones. I did manage to finish it, not out of enjoyment, but in the hope of actually tasting something so that I could see why this might be an enjoyable experience. My friend gave up and tossed her second critter in the trash. I would not have been at all surprised to see it scamper away under its own power.
We quickly made it to a neighborhood noodle shop, primarily to eat ANYTHING else in order to vanquish the taste and sense memory. We had a simple, not outstanding but serviceable meal at the place across from the Starbucks at 41st and Main (Chao Zhou).
I think that Im the only person so far to post something negative about Mr. Octo. It would not surprise me if I were to be flamed for this, but I felt I had to report what we experienced. Also, I dont believe that so many other people were so wrong about his wares. But I assure you, what we had could not be described as flavorful and tender. More like something people are forced to consume when nothing else even remotely nourishing is available.
So Im wondering what went wrong? Was this a different version of the same thing? Perhaps he had to hurry yesterday and skipped a step? A stand-in Octoman? I dont know, just mentioning some theories.
Perhaps someone has another theory about this. Sorry it cant be the glowing report I was looking forward to posting.