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Dear Eater SF,
I love octopus! Besides Kokkari, what restaurants in San Francisco serve the best octopus?
Octopi on My Mind
In the city by the Bay, it shouldn’t be too challenging to find outrageously good seafood. But locating that perfect cephalopod can become a quest. Greek restaurant Kokkari Estiatorio’s grilled octopus, drizzled with lemon and olive oil with a flavorful dash of oregano is a reasonable $19. While the Eater SF team may not be as crazy about octopus as our reader, we have a few favorites that come to mind.
In the same league as Kokkari, Estiatorio Ornos brings a Meditteranean riff on grilled octopus to the city. The FiDi restaurant from Michael Mina incorporates Santorini capers, white beans, and red onion into its $23 octopus entree. On the ritzier side of things, Bernal Heights’s 3rd Cousin serves its Spanish octopus with chickpea “mochi,” satsuma, olives, a miso-pepper emulsion, and Marcona almonds — available a la carte for $25 or as a course on the tasting menu. The mochi is a soft counter to the toothsome octopus, while almonds add crunchy textural balance.
In SoMa, Luce’s executive chef Norma Whitt and chef de cuisine Dennis Efthymiou dish up an octopus lasagna that makes a hearty addition to this lineup. The fine dining iteration of this down-home dish comes with a spinach ricotta sauce, tomato puree, mirepoix, and garum bechamel — and it can be made gluten-free, too. It’s a highlight of the tasting menu, yes, but this multi-textural and ultra-rich course could shine all on its own.
Nara, with locations on Haight Street and Polk Street, represents a whole other side of the octopus game. The Japanese restaurant’s Haight location offers four panko-fried tako balls for $13. The octopus cooks sous-vide for six hours and is then combined in a ball with truffle mashed potato, diced onions, mushrooms, and jalapeno before being deep-fried. The crunchy, fried snack gets a sprinkling of bonito flakes on top. (The Polk Street outpost offers a similar dish for just $8.) This entry doubles as a shout-out to all the Japantown restaurants and kiosks dishing up takoyaki like pros; there are plenty of inexpensive options, including Takoyaki Yamachan, for fried octopus throughout Japantown. Stick Bar belongs somewhere in this league, too, as octopus skewers are on the menu at the whisky lounge pop-up at the 201 Spear Street restaurant Gozu.
A few options that don’t quite qualify: Sula Lounge, which is off the official recommendations based on the fact that it’s located across the Golden Gate Bridge, serves charred Monterey octopus. For $22 the restaurant offers indulgent chunks of octopus cooked in a fennel confit with Calabrian chili. And an honorable mention goes to Abaca; though the award-winning Filipino restaurant cycled octopus off the menu for the time being. But if those suckers ever populate the menu again, it’s well worth making a trip to the waterfront to have a taste.