The Twisted Tail, the huge octopus tentacle was a bit frightening. Not Kraken nightmares scary, but in a scared-for-your-taste-buds-way: smaller octopi tend to be much more tender and flavorful than larger ones, which can easily get tough and dried out, especially cooked whole on a grill. On first bite, all worry washed away in a tidal wave of intense, oceany-sweet flavor and soft, melting meat.
Chef Leo Forneas’ secret? The fresh octopus first undergoes a six-hour poach in oil, which slowly cooks the flesh while infusing it with flavor. Right before serving, it’s plucked from the oil bath and seared on a the kitchen’s charcoal grill. Served on a bed of black-eyed peas and cherry tomatoes with a light vinaigrette, the result is some of the best octopus we’ve ever tried, and that includes critters enjoyed in Greece moments after being pulled from the Mediterranean.
It’s tough to find fault with much of Forneas’ new menu at the Headhouse Square blues and bourbon joint, actually - shrimp 'n' grits was another standout, and pork and cheddar empanadas disappeared way too quickly. When you go, definitely save room for dessert - the housemade donuts are fine on their own, but are mostly just a good vehicle for the buttery bourbon dipping sauce on the side - and Southern hospitality dictates you clean your plate ($13; 215-558-2471).