I have featured Octopus in several ‘Notable Nosh’ posts in the past, as well as including several dishes in restaurant reviews, but this particular offering that I enjoyed at Brothers Bistro in Ottawa deserves a special mention. In that same city, I have eaten grilled Octopus at both Greek and Portuguese restaurants before (and these are cuisines that make Octopus a specialty), but the Bistro effort you see pictured above really outshone them all.
Firstly, the actual grilling, in this case, was done to perfection. I often find that grilled octopus is over-cooked in many establishment, chiefly, I believe, from cooking too long at too low a temperature. The taste isn’t especially diminished thereby, but the texture of the meat usually suffers badly. Here, the outside of the single tentacle was charred in many places, adding to the overall flavor, but the flesh within was delightfully chewy with the ‘elastic’ bite that makes octopus a pleasure to eat.
The other aspect of the dish that makes it so deserving of mention was the unique flavoring. The meat was served with fingerling Yukon potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and a house-made chorizo, and all were bathed in a lovely ‘vinaigrette’ made with Tamarind and Mint. I was almost going to forego octopus on this occasion (despite it being a favorite) as there were some other interesting selections on the menu I wanted to try as well. However, the idea of using mint with octopus seemed so (doubtfully) unusual that I couldn’t resist giving it a try.
Happily, the pairing turned out to work very well indeed. First of all, the chorizo, which was more in the form of ‘loose’ sausage meat rather then dense slices, made for a nice umami counterpoint to the marine flavor of the octopus, and it wasn’t the overly hot-spicy as I half-expected it to be. As for the sauce, the Tamarind gave the overall dish a lovely sweet and sour quality (which went especially well with the potato too), while the mint flavor blended with it perfectly to the point that it took me a few seconds to even be able to identify ‘mintiness’ as an individual quality. I am not sure what variety of mint was used (peppermint, possibly) but it was added with a deft touch and the overall effect was excellent.