clock menu more-arrow no yes
A glass window with an undersea scene etched on it featuring an octopus...
An octopus etched in the barroom glass at Seabra’s suggests that this might be a good place to find the tentacled creature.

Filed under:

Critic Robert Sietsema’s Top 5 Octopus Dishes Around NYC

See the critic’s five most spectacular tentacular dishes — from a ceviche to a grilled Greek version

Yes, octopuses are in the same zoological class as squid and cuttlefish, but how come they taste so much better? Not easy to prepare, the eight-armed, nine-brained, blue-blooded denizen of the deep must be tenderized first, legendarily in the Greek tradition by being hit against a rock. Then it’s grilled, poached, or baked until the tentacles (more properly, six arms and two legs) are just the right consistency: gluey, oozy, and rubbery.

It’s one of my favorite things to eat, and if it’s also one of yours, read on. The following restaurants are in ranked order, and you might just want to eat your way down (or up) the list.

5. Loukoumi Taverna

A pile of grilled and slightly charred octopus tentacles, with a red tint from the wine marinade...

A little off the beaten track as far as Astorian Greek restaurants go, with an elegant dining room more modern than most, Loukoumi turns out a memorable octopus app. Marinated in red wine vinegar for sharpness, the octopus is grilled over flame, producing patches of char here and there, then dressed with odiferous olive oil. The tentacles remain relatively firm, so chewing is required, which enhances the flavor of the animal as far as I’m concerned and delivers more smoky enjoyment. 45-07 Ditmars Boulevard, between 45th and 46th streets, Astoria

4. El Paso Taqueria

Three octopus tacos covered with shredded vegetable matter and topped with bright red salsa...

Now that you’ve vigorously embraced Tijuana fish tacos heaped with fried fish and shredded cabbage, go one step further and try the octopus tacos from this rather obscure Carnegie Hill Mexican restaurant, not to be confused with the nearby El Paso Restaurante Mexicano. These tacos are more often found on Mexico’s Atlantic coast, and feature extensively tenderized tentacles heaped with cilantro, purple onions, shredded cabbage, and a rudimentary tomato salsa. Arriving with lemon instead of lime, they also beg to be anointed with the red or green hot sauce provided. 64 E. 97th Street, between Madison and Park avenues, Carnegie Hill

3. Tomi Jazz

A small bowl of gooey raw octopus ceviche with a green shiso leaf and some sprouts...

Have you ever considered downing octopus raw? Well, Japan offers it in sushi bars — and in New York, it’s available at this underground jazz club, which evokes Greenwich Village dives of the 1960’s. The menu is very much like that of an izakaya, and one of the most interesting and cheapest dishes thereon is the $5 octopus. How can it be so cheap? Well it’s a small bowlful of tidbits flavored with wasabi and shiso, and the terrain is gooey and stringy and slightly sweet. You’ll love octopus all over again as soon as you try it. Or not. 239 E. 53rd Street, between Second and Third avenues, Midtown East

2. Ecuatoriana

A bowl of octopus ceviche with a circle of fried plantain sticking out...

There are few contexts more pleasing for fresh seafood than an Ecuadorian ceviche. For one thing, there’s the tartness conferred by the lemon juice marinade, shot with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. A periscope of fried plantain replies to the octopus’s squish with a resounding crunch. Finally, the cooling broth demands to be drunk as a refreshing coda to consuming the ceviche. This rollicking restaurant has an informal front room and a formal rear room with waiter service, although maybe formal isn’t quite the right word. 1685 Amsterdam Avenue, at 143rd Street, Hamilton Heights

1. Seabra’s Marisqueira

A pile of sliced octopus tentacles in a salad with a lemon wedge on top...

Few nationalities have as much respect for the octopus as the Portuguese. This wonderful restaurant, a few blocks from the PATH train terminus at Newark’s Pennsylvania Station, specializes in seafood. Sit in the blue tiled barroom in front rather than the stuffy dining room in the rear, and enjoy the region’s best octopus, tendered in a mellow salad. The ample arms are cut in cross section and drenched with a thick vinaigrette dotted with parsley and garlic, but the taste and texture of the octopus shines through. 87 Madison Street, at Ferry Street, Newark

Seabra's Marisqueira

87 Madison St, Newark, NJ 07105 (973) 465-1250 Visit Website

El Paso Taqueria

64 East 97th Street, Manhattan, NY 10029 (212) 996-1739

Tomi Jazz

239 East 53rd Street, Manhattan, NY 10022 (646) 497-1254 Visit Website

Ecuatoriana

1685 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10031 (212) 491-4626

Loukoumi Taverna

45-07 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY 11105 (718) 626-3200 Visit Website

New York’s Hottest Squid Game is Wau’s Vegan Calamari

NYC Restaurant Openings

Dating App Bumble Extends Women-First Ethos to Its New Restaurant — With Male Chefs

NYC Restaurant Openings

An Italian Wine Bar With Panini Hidden Behind a Deli — and More Openings

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater New York newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world