The superlative “boiled octopus” at Momokawa.
When you think of octopus, the first thing that pops into your head is the standard recipe found at Greek restaurants, where the cephalopod is served charred from the grill and dripping with red-wine vinegar. But even the Greeks have lots of different methods of preparation, and so do the Turks, Japanese, Koreans, Cubans, and Italians.
Known as Octopus vulgaris, and a member of the mollusk family (along with 299 other octopus species), the cephalopod that’s the subject of this list must be beaten extensively to tenderize it, but still remains ropy and rubbery in most recipes — which is part of its appeal, of course. Because, ultimately, octopus is for those who like to chew.
Since we couldn’t bear to winnow the list down to 10, we’re giving you 11.
At Tabla, maybe for the first time ever: tandoori octopus.
11. Tandoori Octopus at Tabla: Blackened at the edges and smeared with cilantro chutney, chef Floyd Cardoz’s tandoori-oven-cooked tentacles send the octopod in unexpected flavor directions, making us wonder why no one ever thought of this cooking method before. 11 Madison Avenue, 212-889-0667
10. Grilled Htapodi at Spartan Souvlaki: Cooked in the standard way at this gussied-up Greek diner, the serving is especially large, the price astonishingly cheap, and the rubbery tentacles possess a gluey quality that suggests prolonged beatings. 6820 Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-748-5838
9. Octopus Casserole at Marmaris: Who’d have thought that octopus could double for macaroni in a delicious cheese casserole with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms at this seaside Turk? What a gutbomb! 3081 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-462-4444
8. Octopus Appetizer at Saraghina: No one would expect a Bed-Stuy pizza parlor to do well by our eight-armed friend, but Saraghina does, tossing tentacles in a piquant salad with plenty of onions and garlic. 435 Halsey Street, Brooklyn, 718-574-1988
7. Potato-Wrapped Tentacle at Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar: The crisp potato wrapper adds a brilliant new dimension to chew and squish, buoyed up with an avocado puree that adds richness and color. 101 Second Avenue, 212-979-1012
6. Raw Baby Octopus at Soba Totto: Maybe you’re not ready for this yet, but baby octopi — studded with capers and smeared with fresh wasabi — isn’t rubbery at all, but slimy and gooey in the extreme, and loads of fun to eat after an initial shiver. 211 East 43rd Street, 212-557-8200
Yummy, gummy: the cheese-soaked cephalopod at Marmaris.
Oniony octopus salad at Liman.
5. Red-Wine-Braised Octopus and Bone-Marrow Fusilli at Marea: Chef Michael White has made a genius pairing with both fusilli (spring-shaped pasta) and similar-size octopus tentacles in the same dish, along with wads of bone marrow for extraordinary richness. 240 Central Park South, 212-582-5100
4. Grilled Octopus Salad at Liman: Taking the regulation charred arms and tossing them in a salad with sweet purple onions and a lemony vinaigrette must be one of the most sublime octopus uses yet discovered at this Sheepshead Bay Anatolian restaurant. 2710 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-769-3322
3. Octapodaki at Uncle Nick’s: The tentacles are particularly plump at this Greek restaurant that’s part of a Manhattan mini-chain, and they come laved in plenty of EVO, with the surprise addition of balsamic vinegar — which isn’t too Hellenic, but sure is delicious. 383 Eighth Avenue, 212-609-0500
2. Pulpo Salad at Margon: Served with extraordinarily good yellow rice and black beans, the octopus at this stalwart Cuban lunch counter couldn’t be better, plunged into an oily salad with plenty of onions, garlic, green olives, cilantro, and sweet red peppers. 136 West 46th Street, 212-354-5013
1. Boiled Octopus at Momokawa: This dish may change all your ideas about octopus. Yes, it has a very delicate flavor, and not like a rubber hose, either; and yes, the beast can be every bit as tender as it is tough. 157 East 28th Street, 212-684-7830
Almost No. 1: the wonderful pulpo salad, served with rice and beans, at Margon.