Catch of the Day

Star Ingredient of the Season: Octopus

Wait, what? Yes, seafood has a peak season too, and octopus makes a perfect summer dish.

By Megha Tejpal June 24, 2015

Octopus is ready for its close-up.

Image: Shutterstock

If the earth is over 70 percent water, why only talk about what's in season on land? It's high time we spotlighted some Houston hotspots serving up the best seafood and shellfish dishes. After all, there's no better time for a crawfish boil or a lobster bake at home than the warm summer months. And when dining out, you may have noticed seafood specials like jumbo lump crab-stuffed trout or creamy lobster mac 'n' cheese—there's something about seafood that just makes a dish sound extra delicious and extra special. While there are many stars of the sea, there's one exotic ingredient that's showing up frequently in some of Houston's best restaurants this season.

Star Ingredient of the Season: Octopus

Similar to squid, octopus is a member of the cephalopod family. While considered seafood, octopus is completely different than fish in both taste and texture, though it is a lean meat and low in calories. Popular in sushi or mixed seafood dishes, octopus is an excellent source of iron, calcium and potassium but can be high in cholesterol. Like anything, eating in moderation is recommended, though I have yet to encounter anyone adding too much octopus to their weekly grocery list.

While there was a time not too long ago, when people would shudder at the thought of eating slippery, slimy things. But then eel went from "Eew, no" to unagi as the sushi staple found its way onto Japanese restaurant menus across America. Octopus is the new eel, my friends. With its distinct look, low-cal charm and star quality on the plate, it is a stellar ingredient for any chef to play around with.

Image: Megha Tejpal

In a Starring Role at: PESKA Seafood Culture

The new and highly sophisticated addition to BLVD Place, PESKA Seafood Culture allows guests to enjoy a very unique seafood experience in Houston. Like the name suggests, PESKA invites guests to learn about seafood culture and understand more about where their fish come from, even showcasing the day's freshest catches along with other ingredients used in the kitchen inside the foyer of the restaurant as you first enter. 

PESKA Seafood Culture
1700 Post Oak Blvd.

While an excellent ceviche is standard at any seafood restaurant, you have quite the selection to choose from at PESKA. There are several combinations, but the Yucateco stood out with its chunks of octopus, shrimp and conch—and it also came highly recommended by executive chef Omar Pereney. In this particular dish, not only does the perfect blend of cilantro, lime and avocado bring out the flavors of the shrimp and octopus, but the slightest touch of pepper gives it a kick that takes it to the next level. So simple, as the best things quite often are.

Another reason the Yucateco ceviche beats out the rest in the octopus challenge is that it is an all-around crowd pleaser. Experienced foodies will surely appreciate the clean flavors and the superb quality of the meat, while octopus newbies will enjoy trying the cephalopod chopped up and mixed in with shrimp (an old favorite) as opposed to a tentacle served on a plate. Though as times continue to change and our palates become more sophisticated, it may not be long before we are discussing live octopus—or sannakji—as a favorite dish.



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