Over the past several months, octopus dishes have been making waves on menus from coast to coast. With skin capable of changing color, a jet of ink to cover their tracks, two keen eyes, four pairs of arms and a beak, these soft-bodied, highly intelligent mollusks — no, they’re not fish — are among the more elusive seafood items. While octopuses (yes, that’s the proper plural) are sometimes misunderstood, when prepared well, these mysterious creatures make for some delectable dishes. Check out a few fast facts about these tasty invertebrates:
A tricky texture
With firm, smooth and slightly bumpy skin complete with “suckers,” octopuses have a unique texture. The best preparations result in a dish that’s firm, chewy and most importantly, never rubbery. When cooked well (either at extremely high or low temperatures), the resulting flavor — both slightly sweet and reminiscent of the salty sea — can’t be beat.
How to buy
Octopuses can be purchased in raw form (sometimes even alive) or already boiled, cut and shrink-wrapped. Dried and frozen varieties are also common and in-demand because the freezing process helps tenderize the meat, making it easier to cook.
One healthy treat
Octopus is not only tasty, it’s also good for you. Lean, low in calories and high in iron, octopuses contain ample amounts of B12, an essential vitamin for metabolism, blood cell creation and brain function, and selenium, an antioxidant and trace mineral involved in protein metabolism during digestion. Treating your body well never tasted so good!
Here are 16 ways the nation’s top restaurants are satisfying America’s octopus cravings:
Bird & The Bottle in Santa Rosa offers lots of Southern- and Asian-inspired delights, including a divine barbecued octopus with bean sprout-miso slaw.
At Osteria Mamma in LA, a grilled Mediterranean octopus appetizer comes with fresh celery, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and potatoes.
Boston’s Townsman serves up a satisfying Octopus a la Plancha along with plantains, mole (a traditional Mexican sauce) and citrus.
One of Kapnos’ many crisp Greek share plates from Chef Mike Isabella is the Charred Octopus, creatively adorned with light-as-air lentils, slow roasted tomato and heirloom carrots.
In this simple yet delicious shared plate from Basque-inspired Huertas in NYC, tender octopus is served with pimentón and potatoes.
Castelvetrano olives, spring onions, fingerling potatoes and yogurt adorn the octopus at coastal-inspired Seaside Metal in Guerneville, just outside of Northern California’s picturesque Russian River Valley.
For a tasty Latin twist, dig into the charcoal grilled octopus tacos at Petty Cash Taqueria in LA, served with chile de arbol, peanuts, Jack cheese and avocado.
One of many delicious mezze options at Zaytinya in Washington D.C., the Octopus Santorini features grilled Mediterranean octopus, marinated onions, capers and yellow split pea puree.
A traditional octopus tapa, the Pulpo a la Gallega at Amada in Philadelphia is as juicy as can be. Add a glass of sangria, and you’ve got one happy start to any meal.
10. OCTOPUS LA FORNO – Pastoral (Boston)
At Pastoral in Boston, the Octopus la Forno features wood-fired octopus and squid, cannelloni beans, Calabresa chili and lemon.
The Charred Octopus at dell’anima in NYC is unexpectedly delightful mix of rice, beans, chorizo (pork sausage) and chicories (plants related to lettuces that are more bitter in flavor).
San Francisco’s 25 Lusk serves up a freshly grilled octopus dish with caramelized fennel, arugula, hazelnut streusel and a blood orange emulsion.
One of many great antipasti options at Bar Mezzana in Boston, the grilled octopus comes with potatoes, salsa verde and pole beans.
For a truly inventive take, check out the Octopus “pastrami” from Bâtard in NYC, prepared with braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes.
Pläj, San Francisco’s only restaurant dedicated to Scandinavian fare, offers a grilled Spanish octopus with celery, cucumber and tzatziki (a yogurt sauce).
Flex Mussels in NYC features lots of amazing seafood items, including a charred octopus appetizer with capers, lemon and marble potatoes. (Pro tip: Be sure to save room for the amazing donuts!)