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 knows how to hit that target with instinctual ease, as is evidenced in their insalata di mare. Squid, octopus, and shrimp mingle with red bell pepper, celery, and parsley for a dish full of bright colors and flavors.
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.
Kale Caesar Salad with Seared Octopus and Calamari at Santos Anne ($13)
Something about cephalopods' curly, slithery tentacles scream out "sexy food," so we' d be especially inclined to order it when hoping to stir up some romance. Williamsburg's Santos Anne is just the spot to do that, offering up both a date-friendly atmosphere and an enchanting kale and romaine caesar with chorizo, wild plums, and octopus and calamari in a vinegary horseradish dressing.
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.
Ojinguh Bokkeum at Su Ra Chung ($16.99)
Ojinguh Bokkeum is a Korean stir-fry of squid in a spicy gochujang based sauce. While there are more than a few restaurants that turn out rubbery and leaden renditions of the dish, Flushing's Su Ra Chung gets it right, offering up a balanced combination of sweet, sour, and heat in each bite.
Kuaytiaw Khua Kai at Pok Pok Phat Thai ($11)
Fat, tender rice noodles are crisped in a skillet until they develop a crust, then tossed with hunks of ground chicken, scallions, and cuttlefish. Although we love the interplay of land and sea here, we're still hoping that Andy Ricker will come out with an all cuttlefish version just so we can indulge in its satisfyingly chewy texture. For now, however, we're waiting with bated breath.
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.
Htapodi Sharas (Charcoal-Grilled Octopus) at E Taverna ($14)
Astoria's E Taverna is all about seafood, most notably octopus. Washed in olive oil, vinegar, and capers, and full of smoldering grill flavor, it's one of the boldest octopus dishes we've had anywhere, Greek-style or otherwise.
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.
Fusilli with Baby Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea ($33)
This signature dish from Marea is like surf 'n turf for lovers. Ropes of fusilli are intertwined with delicate baby octopus arms and dotted with buttery slivers of marrow. The shapes, flavors, and textures meld together so seamlessly that savoring it is but an easy affair.