Octopus Duo at E18teen in Ottawa’s Byward Market

The Octopus Duo at Restaurant E18teen in Ottawa was an appetizer consisting of grilled Octopus tentacles, and something referred to as an Octopus ‘Carpaccio’. The grilled Octopus was excellent, but I am still at a loss to understand how the other half of the duo was given its name. It was interesting, I have to say, but not something that I would really care to try again.

Anyway, the menu description elaborated a little and described the presentation as including ‘Citrus Fennel, Harissa Aioli, Sweety Drops and Torched Orange’. The ‘Sweety Drops’, it turns out, were the pretty little tear-drop shaped red peppers you see scattered here and there. They were lightly pickled and were tasty enough, but didn’t really complement the main features in any significant way, I thought. I also found that to be the case with the Harissa Aioli … it was nicely spiced and pleasant enough, but just not a particularly good accompaniment.

In contrast, I liked the torched orange quite a bit… it added just a nice hint of smoke, and the ‘Citrus Fennel’ was a very good addition. This consisted of the very small slices of stem that, like the peppers, were lightly pickled. Here, the pickling, though not especially suggestive of citrus, had a nice sweetness contrasting the acidity and was very pleasant.

The grilled octopus tentacles were the best part of the dish, being expertly grilled to yield the perfect chewiness of texture and a lovely sweetness. The ‘Carpaccio’ however, was a disappointment. It was not, as I imagined, thin slices of raw octopus, but rather consisted of the unusual slice of ‘jellied’ octopus laid beneath the tentacles. When I first saw this, I asked if they pieces had been prepared in aspic but was told that the octopus tentacles had been simmered and then cooled in the simmering liquid until it congealed into a gel. It was sliced nicely, I suppose, but, though I love octopus in many different styles, this was the first time that I have *ever* actually disliked it…

Well… this dish just didn’t work much for me on the whole. Still, I won’t fault E18teen too heavily for that. Not every dish is going to be a winner and usually I love everything they do. Better luck next time, I guess…

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!