QUESTION: I just got back from Spain, and it was a veritable cephalopod-fest: grilled octopus, sautéed octopus, stewed octopus everywhere, giant tentacles in fish shops everywhere you walk. Squid, I can find here, but octopus is another matter. Where can I go to become reacquainted with my eight-legged friends?
—Beth, La Cañada
ANSWER: I don’t think I’ve ever had octopus as good as the octopus in Spain, giant tentacles sticking up out of stewpots in those little restaurants alongside the Rastro flea market in Madrid, tiny octopi boiled in seawater in Barcelona, grilled octopus in San Sebastian bars. Octopus is kind of what they do. But the Spanish-style octopus I’ve eaten lately in Los Angeles hasn’t quite been up to Spanish standards. The single coiled tentacle with garlic and parsley at the Silver Lake branch of Cobras & Matadors was pretty good, tough but flavorful, but the octopus tapas at La Paella the last time I stopped in were rubbery as a boot.
If Mexican-style octopus is your thing, you could always try the marinated-octopus tostadas with avocado that are standards at most ceviche stands — I like the Colima stands on Alvarado near Temple and Third Street just west of downtown — and go extremely well with beer. (I miss the great cevicheria called El Pulpo Loco, the Crazy Octopus, that used to be in the Pico-Union district.) Or you could go for the Greek version. I like the fat, garlicky tentacles at Ulysses Voyage in the Grove, but the inexpensive grilled octopi at Papa Cristo’s, attached to the C&K Market in the quaintly named Byzantine-Latino District, may be the most popular cephalopods in town. Papa Cristo’s, 2771 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 737-2970.
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