Like calamari, this once-exotic protein now seems as foreign as mozzarella sticks. But while octopus is common, perfectly prepared octopus is not.
Here are eight octopus dishes we find unusually delicious.
Every forkful of chef Perfecto Rocher’s food at Smoke.Oil.Salt exudes purpose, and that's because each component of a dish is so adroitly executed. The polpo a la brasa is no exception. Smoked octopus rests on top of an herb and micro-watercress salad, dressed with a potato vinaigrette. According to Rocher, the tentacles are "blanched three times in salted water, traditional style,” then placed in a pressure cooker and finished on a grill for “crispy and charred flavor using orange and almond wood.” 7274 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District; (323) 930-7900; smokeoilsalt.com.
For one of the best views in the city, get to Sushi Roku early and grab a seat on the enclosed patio, where the Pacific gleams in the distance. Then eat the grilled octopus with sea salt, garlic and olive oil, which comes on a bed of frisee, cherry tomatoes and radish. Made “Italian-style,” the cephalopod is boiled in vegetable stock for an hour, rendering the tentacles tender enough to cut with a fork. Add a side of the yellowtail wrapped in foie gras with black truffle or the blue crab tartare with uni and caviar, and you can walk away with all indulgences covered. 1401 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, and other locations; (310) 458-4771; innovativedining.com/restaurants/sushiroku.
Sexy and romantic, with fireplaces, fountains, chandeliers and red crystals, La Boheme the restaurant, like La Boheme the opera, isn't much for subtlety or understatement. The restaurant's Catalan-inspired octopus starter comes grilled and sits a bed of braised, spicy mustard greens and beet tops. Flavored with saffron, paprika, citrus vinegar and chili flakes, the dish bursts with flavor. According to executive chef Martha Esquivel, the meat is simmered for about 35 minutes before getting a quick grill. “You don’t want to cook it too long — enough so you still have a bite but you’re not struggling with it,” she says. 8400 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 848-2360; globaldiningca.com/laboheme.
Blue Plate Oysterette
For those on the squeamish side when it comes to suction cups, Blue Plate Oysterette's seasonal octopus special is built to convert non-believers. Served grilled sans suction cups with fingerling potatoes, lemon gremolata, a charred lemon half, cherry tomatoes and arugula, this octopus dish makes for a perfect summer appetizer. Waiter Jonathan Margolis says, “I couldn’t do octopus until I had it here.” 8048 W. 3rd St., Beverly Grove; (323) 656-5474; and 1355 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 576-3474; blueplatesantamonica.com.
The simple luxury of eating in a greenhouse — outfitted with enough marble to sink a ship — makes Cecconi’s a terrific date-night restaurant. The grilled octopus, lemon, caper and olives appetizer is mindful of Southern Italy. Slightly sweet, with the crunch of celery added to the mix, the dish manages to be light yet substantial. Augment your meal with the Break in Oaxaca cocktail, an unusual blend of chamomile-infused mezcal, chocolate, lemon, maple syrup and frothy egg white. The dried flowers on top bob like buoys. 8764 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (310) 432-2000; cecconiswesthollywood.com.
Chef Bryan Podgorski of Tanzy does the requisite Spanish-style grilling of the octopus, then serves it with warm potato salad, parsley emulsion, lemon and celery branch. Clean with the bright mix of citrus and parsley, this dish is one of the reasons why Tanzy is a bright spot among Westwood’s sea of cheap eats catering to undergrads. Pair the octopus with Can’t Beet This, a Prosecco cocktail with roasted organic beets, ginger and toasted green cardamom. 10840 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; (310) 307-7004; tanzyrestaurant.com/westwood.
The octopus at The Larchmont mingles with cherry tomatoes, small white cannellini beans, cilantro and a harissa aioli. The dish and its environs make for a perfect summer evening: sit on the porch, drink a refreshingly spicy Mexican Tourist (mezcal, pineapple, lime, orgeat, fresh jalapeno) and savor this charred mollusk. 5750 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; (323) 464-4277; thelarchmont.com.
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Thought it has an enormous hog painted on the front, Terrine excels as much with octopus as with pork. A creative combination of Mediterranean flavors work together, with the slightly charred octopus draped atop a fluffy cloud of burrata and surrounded by roasted broccolini and toasted sunflower seeds. The dish makes one of the dreamiest dining rooms in town that much dreamier. 8265 Beverly Blvd., Beverly Grove; (323) 746-5130. terrinela.com.