Sitting at the bar at Mozaic, I was a bit alarmed when I didn’t see the warm pesto that I’d heard so much about on the list of starters. But when I asked the bartender, he nonchalantly replied that the reason I didn’t see it on the menu is that it comes complimentary with every meal. Well, OK then!
Returning to the starters, I thought the grilled octopus might make a nice complement to the pesto—and I can never resist ordering it when I see it. A meatier cousin to calamari, it’s a common ingredient in other parts of the world, but isn’t often seen on American menus. Octopus can stand up to assertive flavors, and when prepared correctly, the extremely lean meat is both tender and slightly rubbery—in a good way.
My grilled octopus arrived sizzling and scorched from the grill, swimming in a generous amount of briny capers, the tips of the wine-colored tentacles curled and black. The aroma of oregano, olive oil and lemon filled my nose with each crispy, tender bite. It was delicious, although the subtle flavor of the octopus was slightly overshadowed by a few too many capers.
Comparatively, the small, shallow dish of pesto that arrived with a side of bread was fairly unassuming, until I took a bite. The clean, summer-y flavor and fragrance of basil was buoyed by peppery arugula and plenty of garlic. I alternatively dragged pieces of bread through the bright green sauce and the tangy olive oil from the octopus, enjoying the distinct Mediterranean flavors.
Two of Mozaic’s pastas are also pesto-centric, but since I didn’t want to be loaded down with a big meal, this small serving was just right for me (in fact, I could’ve eaten it with a spoon, and would’ve loved it on a mezze platter. Heck, it would’ve been delicious on the octopus!).
What started as an exploratory mission evolved into a very pleasant solo date, aided by a totally decent $4 glass of house Merlot on happy hour special, the pesto that lived up to the hype, and the exciting flavors and textures of the octopus. I need to take myself out more often.