Octopus Grilled at Spiga
Back in the day, the Spiga Café specialized in Portuguese cuisine down in the fashionable Byward Market area of Ottawa. I had some excellent dishes there, including the Grilled Octopus appetizer you see pictured above, and I was sorry I was unable to work my way through their menu before they closed their doors for good. Everything I ate there was not only delicious, it was, I thought, always very skillfully and artistically presented.
The menu described this particular dish as Grilled Octopus with Portuguese Vinaigrette and I was very curious to see what this would be like. As it turned out, there was no vinaigrette dressing over the Octopus, which was what I was expecting, but there was a cold preparation of Cauliflower, Carrot, and Olive somewhat like an Italian Giardiniera. This was finished in a rather tangy dressing, which actually provided a nice counter-point to the richness of the rest of the dish, and I rather think this is what the menu was referring to as the ‘Portuguese Vinaigrette’.
There was a Mayonnaise based sauce on the side as well as a wedge of lemon. I am not entirely sure what was in it but it I could detect Lime and Black Pepper. It was nice enough, but the Octopus and Vegetables really didn’t need much else, even lemon juice.
As for the Octopus itself, it was nicely char-grilled, and then finished with Purple Onions sautéed in a nicely seasoned, reddish oil. My only issue with the dish was that the Octopus flesh was fork tender, and didn’t have the slight chewiness that I enjoy. I rather think that the Octopus was grilled, and then sautéed with the onion ahead of time, with individual portions later re-heated for service. This approach makes sense for restaurants, but it does influence the end result. Still, that being said, I think most people wouldn’t take the same issue with the texture as I did. My observation is really only a statement of personal preference rather than a criticism and, on the whole, I think this dish was very nicely executed.