Pulpo a la Gallega at Peix Bar De Mariscos ($11)
Sometimes octopus is best enjoyed with minimal accompaniments, so as to fully appreciate its delicate flavor and unique texture. Peix Bar De Mariscos understands this, serving up a simple pulpo a la gallega with just a dash of parsley and paprika and a glug of very good olive oil.
Insalate di Mare at Il Colosseo ($12)
Il Colosseo: 7704 18th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11214 (map); 718-234-3663
Octopus with Chickpeas at MP Taverna ($13.95)
A Greek restaurant should be judged, at least in part, on the quality of its octopus. MP Taverna's leaves a solid impression, with its spoon-tender texture and briny flavor that is aided by the chickpeas, yogurt, and grassy olive oil that join it on the plate.
Hotaru Ika at Tanoshi Sushi (as part of omakase, market price)
We've emphatically sung the praises of Tanoshi Sushi before. Pieces like the hotaru ika demonstrate why we're so smitten with the place. Tiny firefly squid are belted onto a block of rice and topped with a dab of kani miso (crab innards) for an ocean-scented bite that is as intriguing to the tastebuds as it is to the eyes.
Scallion Pancake with Squid at Hanjan ($16)
Familiar Korean classics that are better-than-you-remember are par for the course at Hanjan and the pajeon demonstrate this ably. They're loaded with tender-as-can-be squid and shoots of fresh scallion that explode the pancakes into the third dimension.
Live Octopus at Sik Gaek ($24)
Flushing and Woodside's Sik Gaek is something of a holy grail for culinary thrill seekers because it is one of the few places in New York where you can order sannakji—barely dead octopus delivered squirming and thrashing straight to your table. Pick up a tentacle and let it pick up a sliver of garlic or chili, then dip it into one of two sauces. The tentacles are conveniently self-saucing.
Kuaytiaw Khua Kai at Pok Pok Phat Thai ($11)
Charred Octopus at L'Apicio ($19)
Chef Kaytlin Brakefield at L'Apicio insists that pork is a natural match for octopus. We're inclined to agree. In this dish, red-wine braised tentacles are given a crispy exterior and matched with fregola, celery and parsley leaves, olives, and Italian pepperoni.
Uni Tagliatelle with Squid at Cull & Pistol ($15 for a half portion, $21 for a full)
In a city where it seems there's an uni dish on every menu, it's hard for the stuff to stand out from the crowd. At Cull & Pistol, it's the wonderfully smoky squid perched atop this uni tagliatelle that make for a dish that's worth noting, which is complemented by the acidity of roasted tomato and the crunch of bread crumbs.
Leche de Pantera at Cevicheria El Rey ($13)
Leche de Pantera is not actually a glass full of panther's milk, but rather an invigorating ceviche of shrimp, crab, and octopus in a squid ink-stained sauce. Served alongside a filling portion of sweet plantains at Jackson Heights' Cevicheria El Rey, it's the perfect way to play games with your tastebuds as you alternate between the sweet plantains and brisk flavors of lime and seafood.
Cevicheria El Rey: 85-16 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-606-9077
Salada De Polvo (Octopus Salad) at Seabra's Marisqueira ($12)
According to the barman, Seabra flies in their octopus from Portugal before cleaning it and giving it a long poach in red wine with onions. We'd certainly cross the ocean, or at least the Hudson River, just to taste such perfectly seasoned and meaty tentacles again.
Seabra's Marisqueira: 87 Madison St., Newark, NJ 07105 (map); 973-465-1250
Barbecued Squid with Thai Basil and Fresh Peanuts at Annisa ($17)
The whole squid is used in this dish from head to toe (err, toe tendril). While the rings are left to soak in a lemongrass-spiked marinade, the tentacles are battered and fried until crispy, resulting in an intricate composition of Asian-tinged flavors and textures.