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Sep 6, 2009 11:58 AM

Octopus in Seattle

Where is the best octopus in Seattle? I have had a terrible time finding good grilled octopus. Most recently at Café Juanita, and prior to that at Sitka and Spruce, Tavolata, and other esteemed restaurants, the grilled octopus has been dry, mealy, and tough. I have had wonderful grilled octopus in Greece, where the octopus had some nice char from the wood grill, but remained moist and flavorful. Alas, I have not had any luck finding an equivalent version in Seattle.

Perhaps the reason is the time and effort it takes to properly tenderize an octopus, although I assume most restaurants use frozen octopus, and freezing helps to tenderize an octopus. Also, the Greek octopus (htapothi sti skhara) is typically cooked for 45 minutes to an hour over low coals, and I suspect that local kitchens cook the octopus for a much shorter time over a much hotter grill. Whatever the reason, I’ve been frustrated in my search for tender, moist, and flavorful grilled octopus in Seattle.

Although it is not often available, I recently had some wonderful raw octopus sashimi at Kisaku Sushi. Raw octopus must be sliced very thinly because it is otherwise too tough to chew, and the flavor of raw octopus is very delicate and somewhat difficult to taste. The octopus usually served at sushi restaurants is poached which enhances the octopus’s flavor and sweet aromas. I like to have poached octopus lightly grilled (just a few seconds on the grill so as to lightly char the exterior of the octopus slices but not further cook them) served as sashimi with just a little salt on the side of the plate for dipping.

In addition to the raw or poached octopus available at a good sushi restaurant like Kisaku or Shiro, I like Harvest Vine’s and Txori’s Galician-style octopus with red potato, pimenton, and olive oil (pulpo a feira). In contrast to the dry and chewy grilled octopus I’ve had at Seattle restaurants, Harvest Vine’s version is tender, moist, and flavorful.

Any suggestions for places In Seattle that serve octopus, especially grilled octopus, to swoon over?

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  1. I had good versions of octopus, I think grilled in each case, at Matt's, Brasa, and Zoe. Matt's was just a couple months ago; Zoe was August '08, and Brasa about the same time. Zoe and Brasa both had blood organge in their spicy preparations, and I remember preferring Brasa's version. Matt's version is decidedly spanish, with patatas bravas and romesco.

    1. Sometimes cooking octopus for 45 minutes is not long enough. According to Mario Batali, a wine cork in the cooking water will help tenderize the octopus.

      1. Branzino, in Belltown.

        1. Try the octopus taco at Tako Truk on Eastlake. They grill their octopus with a bit of cumin, chopped up, and put in a taco with some yogurt and mint. The octopus has been perfectly cooked every time I've had it, and the texture is perfect (moist and springy, if that makes sense).

          I think they are closing up for the summer soon... may only be open for one or two more weeks, so I'd hurry!

          4 Replies
          1. re: clearskies0810

            The Stranger just ran an Octopus article ranging from their feeding habits and intelligence to who prepared it the best in Seattle. They said that Tavolata served a great dish.

            1. re: plutch

              I recently had the octopus at Tavolata. As described in my original post, it was dry and tough. I was underwhelmed by the food at Tavolata in general, and by their octopus in particular.

              1. re: Tom Armitage

                I've had good octopus at Tavolata (but Ethan was there that day) and at Sitka and Spruce (Matt Dillon was still cooking there when I had it). I can't say it would be the same when others are doing the work.

                1. re: vanillagorilla

                  I had the octopus at Joule this weekend. It was was mediocre and overcooked. Everything else there was very good.

          2. How about Ocho?
            I've been there and enjoyed some of their other items, but I don't think I've had their octopus.

            (I just had a great octopus dish at Central Kitchen, a nice, but not renowned or exceptional place, in Cambridge, MA. I believe it was wine braised, then grilled. I refuse to believe we can't do better out here.)