Octopuses are extremely smart – smart enough to learn through observation, to process complex information and behave in complex ways. One named Paul, who lived in Germany, correctly predicted the outcomes of eight matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, including Spain’s victory over the Netherlands in the final. Another, named Inky, had the world cheering him on as he made a daring escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand, taking advantage of a tank lid left slightly open to make his way down a drainpipe and to freedom in the ocean.
Unfortunately, not all octopuses are as smart as Paul or as brave as Inky. Those octopuses have a good chance of ending up on a human’s dinner plate. So here’s to all the octopuses who didn’t get away; at least they make for tasty meals. photography by Darren Jacknisky
Grilled Octopus at Cibo Bistro
at Cibo Bistro
A restaurant can often be judged by how well it cooks an octopus. It’s no easy task, after all. You have to make sure the meat is tender and not (as can happen so easily) rubbery and chewy. It needs the perfect amount of char, and a seasoned flavour that accentuates the sea-faring creature. So when Cibo Bistro serves up a perfectly grilled octopus on its appetizer menu, you know you are in capable hands for every other dish that’s coming to you. This octopus is served on cavolo nero salad with toasted almonds, oranges and chili vinaigrette. The chili vinaigrette brings a subtle heat tamed by the citrusy notes of orange. The crunch in the dish, both the almonds and the char on the octopus tentacles, make this a textured and unbelievably delicious delight.- Cory Haller
It’s a no-brainer that anything slathered in a Japanese spicy mayo is going to taste good, but it helps immensely if the receptacle for that mayo is a solid dish. Cue the octopus fritters at one of Edmonton’s newest ramen joints, Nudoru. Here, the appetizers on the menu include six golf ball-sized treasures. The golden-crisp maple-syrup-crusted fritters, filled with sweet corn, cabbage, spicy roasted garlic and chewy (but not too chewy) octopus tentacles are flavour-packed bites, perfect for mopping up that spicy mayo. Just make sure to share or you’ll be filling up on appetizers before that big bowl of ramen arrives. –C.H.
10532 82 Ave., 780-757-6836, website n/a
at Ikki Izakaya
Described on the menu as “wasabi marinated octopus with wasabi stems,” you might expect Ikki’s takowasabi tapas dish to punch you in the nose with the pungent taste of Japanese horseradish. Thankfully, though, the wasabi isn’t that pronounced; it’s just enough to put a pleasant tingle on your tongue without drowning out any other flavours. Wrap up a spoonful of the savoury marinated octopus – which is known as tako in Japanese – in a square of seaweed and a slice of cucumber, and you’ve got a tasty little bite that goes great with a cold beer or cup of sake. –Glenn Cook
In most octopus dishes, you’ll find the tentacles chopped up into inoffensive little chunks. That isn’t the case at Koutouki, where the octopus is served in one large piece, surrounded by a zesty dressing, olives and tomatoes. The outside is crispy, while the white meat inside is soft and tender; it’s almost like the texture of a perfectly cooked chicken. The flavour of the octopus still comes through, but, at Koutouki, you can actually put your knife and fork into this meaty dish – and it’s so very satisfying. –Steven Sandor
10719 124 St., 780-452-5383, koutouki.ca Octopus and Mussel Salad at Sabor
Octopus andMussel Salad
Lightly drizzled in a tangy red-wine vinaigrette, chunks of grilled octopus are generously placed throughout the salad. And what’s outstanding is how well they hold up; the octopus pieces aren’t chewy, and they carry a wonderful smokiness from the grill that will fill your palate. The mussels offer softer textures and richness to the salad – but it’s the octopus that’s the highlight. But you’re going to go one of either two ways on this – you’re going to pick out and eat all of the purple-and-white octopus chunks first, or you’re going to save them till the end.-S.S.
For years, Yokozuna eased me in to eating octopus with the restaurant’s takoyaki, a golden battered ball stuffed with octopus, green onion and red ginger, topped with bonito flakes and a sweet katsu sauce.
But I had never tried tako sushi. I ordered the dish knowing there would be no deep frying of the octopus this time around. No batter, either – just tenderized octopus, lightly boiled (to bring out the subtle flavours) and thinly sliced, on a tightly backed bed of rice accompanied with ginger and wasabi. I’m happy to report that the flavours were clean, the octopus not the least bit under or over-cooked. To put it simply, it was the most simple of dishes done with the expert efficiency one expects from Japanese cuisine. –C.H.
At first, you may be inclined to think that there’s just too much going on in this pan-roasted octopus dish. However, the dish balances a variety of flavours and textures with finesse. The octopus itself is cooked to perfection, and infused with a dash of lingering heat courtesy of the sriracha marinade. The chorizo adds a burst of flavour, the avocado adds a dose of fat that is tempered by the tart ginger citrus dressing, and the texture of the six-grain rice balances the buttery octopus. You’ll find yourself wishing for more than the appetizer-sized portion. –Adrianna Szenthe
The empanadas del mar dish comes with two fillings – one shrimp and one octopus – and it’s the octopus empanada that truly shines. Small pieces of octopus are mixed in with onions, a few green peppers for some crunch, and a generous serving of cheese to bind it all together. While many seafood dishes tend to be on the lighter side, this isn’t one of them – the delicious filling is encased in a soft empanada dough that has been lightly fried until the exterior is golden brown and crisp, and then drizzled with crema to create the perfect comfort food.-A.S.