WHAT I ATE: Charred Octopus

WHY IT’S GREAT: The perfect balance of tender meat with crispy edges.

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: I’m a tough customer when it comes to octopus. I can easy put it on my NO-GO list. But the octopus at Emporio is a cut above and that puts it near the top of my MUST HAVE list. They use a flavorful marinade of garlic, paprika and thyme. The key here is that they carefully poach the octopus, preserving its tender goodness. Then they serve it with almond romesco, onion confit, potato salad & chimichurri sauce. The meat is wonderfully (and almost impossibly) tender and crispy at the same time and with oh so much flavor! It’s not at all rubbery like so many restaurants I’ve been to. And I’m a big paprika fan so this was right up my alley.

COST: $14. Easily enough to share among 2-3

THE SPACE: It’s so ‘Industrial Chic’ in here. Soooo Cozy. There’s wallpaper on the walls just like at my Grandma’s house and lots of wood and metal elements that play well together. Great for a cozy date and equally excting location for a birthday party with 20 friends (if you have that many).

FUN FACTS: Octopus is from Greek oktopous and literally means “eight-foot”

Trend-trackers might notice that many restaurants are offering “burnt, charred and blistered” food much more these days. Kitchen companies have been offering small blow torches as a useful tool for cooking. People apparently want some charring on their dishes to lend authenticity and freshness. It also brings a “smoky and complex” flavor to some traditional food and balances the sweetness in certain dishes. The result? The dishes have more depth and layers of flavor.

Next time you open a bottle of wine, you might want to hold onto that cork. That cork might hold the the key to that illusive tender octopus. The Italians swear by it: When slow-cooking in wine, put the actual wine cork into the braising liquid to cook along with the octopus. It’s one of those tricks that no one can explain, but your octopus will come out super tender.