Cooking octopus can be tricky. But when done right, it's tender, delicious and loaded with health benefits (low-calorie, lean, vitamin-rich). Japanese and Mediterranean diets are swimming, as it were, with octopus options -- as is this town, where many restaurants have the dish on their menus. According to a sampling of chefs, the Spanish and Portuguese seafood are generally favored, and most cooks have a specific size they prefer -- from one to seven pounds -- for reasons ranging from tenderness to plate presentation. Some eateries serve octopus with spices from Peru, while others experiment with the flavors of North Africa. Turn the page for 10 of our favorite octopus dishes around town.
10. Sushi Roku:
You mostly expect to find octopus at a Japanese restaurant. At the Beverly Hills location of Sushi Roku, executive chef Jiro Kobayashi slices the elegant octopus sashimi into a salad with radish, cucumber, finger limes, micro popcorn shoots (yellow leafy plants produced by sprouting actual popcorn) and fried micro shiso in a peppery vinaigrette. The dish is tangy and refreshing, the chilled octopus slightly chewy. 8445 W. Third St., Los Angeles; 323-655-6767.
9. Red O:
There's no getting around the fact that octopus is on the plate when chef Efren F. Cardenas' wood-grilled octopus with crunchy chorizo, heirloom potato, Guajillo salsa and queso añejo arrives at the table. The tentacles swirl around the potatoes; crumbles of cheese drop into a sucker -- or two or three. It's quite a sight, although the highlight of Cardenas' creation has got to be the chorizo. 8155 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; 323-655-5009.
8. The Parish:
Chef Casey Lane's plate of wood-grilled octopus resembles fingerling potatoes sitting atop chickpea puree. The octopus meat is incredibly tender, and acts as a canvas for the Basque country salsa, which has a terrifically strong kick from a mix of North African spices and Basque paprika. 840 S. Spring St., Los Angeles; 213-225-2400.
7. Bar Ama:
Josef Centeno's fideo with octopus and kielbasa packs a spicy punch -- as do many items on Bar Ama's menu. Fideo, or noodle in Spanish, appears here in the form of toasted vermicelli in shrimp broth. What's especially attractive about this dish is the many textures, from smoky kielbasa and slippery vermicelli to soft cheese and crunchy pepitas. 118 W. 4th St., Los Angeles; 213-687-8002.
Anticucho de Pulpo, a dish that is served at two of Ricardo Zarate's restaurants, Mo-Chica and Picca, is one of the spicier octopus dishes. Mo-Chica's manager, Jorge Espana, and the one server will probably announce this dish as their favorite: It's grilled octopus and roasted Kennebec potatoes drizzled with jalapeno sauce. This particular anticucho, or Peruvian grilled small dish, is marinated in vinegar and spices, then cooked with Cuzqueña beer. 514 W. Seventh St., Los Angeles; 213-622-3744.
After appearing as a contestant last summer on a popular TV cooking competition show, Caulfield's chef Stephen Kalt was inspired to create an octopus salad using green papaya, ginger, jerky, Thai basil, fish sauce and lime. Kalt likes to cook a six- to seven-pound octopus and work with the amazing amounts of liquid that he says are released while it's cooking. This Thai-style dish sticks out from the American brasserie's menu, but Kalt says it shouldn't be so surprising considering how multicultural the food in this town is. 9360 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-388-6860.
4. Osteria Mozza:
Like the atmosphere at Osteria Mozza, the grilled octopus with potatoes, celery, fennel and lemon is pleasantly fancy. The thick pieces of meat lounge on a bright bed of greens and appear to be balancing on each other gracefully, like a circus duo. Although some consider that cooking octopus with corks is a kind of pastoral myth, co-owner Mario Batali's recipe calls for just that. Batali chooses octopus from Morocco, and Osteria Mozza's chefs prepare it by poaching it in olive oil before grilling it. The meat is charred and tender, and the salad adds a light and refreshing bite. 6602 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles; 323-297-0100.
3. Fig & Olive:
Fig & Olive serves its octopus a la Gallega carpaccio-style (sliced ultra-thin and chilly). But because it's not technically raw, you'll find the braised octopus under the appetizer -- not the carpaccio -- column. Chef George Lazi uses a one- to three-pound octopus because, he says, "Bigger is tougher." The successive circles of meat are surrounded by marinated bell peppers, fingerling potatoes, black olives, basil and arugula, and drizzled with pimenton lemon dressing and Cobrancosa olive oil. A server suggested a glass of Sancerre, which turned out to be a popular recommendation for octopus. 8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood; 310-360-9100.
It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that, because it's located at LACMA, Ray's octopus appetizer looks a bit like a work of art. It's sprawled across burrata cheese and charred broccoli with Fresno chili purée, fennel and lemon-olive vinaigrette. Tender octopus is tastier, and to accomplish this, chef Kris Morningstar chooses a four- to six-pound octopus, mainly for plate presentation, and prepares it sous-vide for nine hours. The octopus is almost as soft as the burrata. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-857-6180.
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Only open four months, RivaBella offers an octopus salad that's so delicious even someone afraid of eating the eight-legged creature might reconsider. Drawing inspiration from chef Gino Angelini's Northern Italian roots, the polipo con olive e patate is a roasted octopus salad with potatoes, Taggiasche olives, cherry tomatoes, celery slivers and salsa verde. Although manager Paul Chang might point out that his fellow native Koreans prefer live baby octopus, the magic of this dish is the warm and tender meat mixed with soft potatoes, resting on just the right amount of marinara sauce. 9201 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-278-2060.
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