BY Sara Johnson
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a new series we’re calling “One Dish”—a look at how restaurants are using sous vide around the world, from the perspective of a single menu item.
Earlier this year, Olivia opened across the street from the National Portrait Gallery in downtown Washington, DC. In the space formerly occupied by NoPa Kitchen + Bar, the restaurant is “a modern Mediterranean restaurant with Moroccan, Spanish, and Portuguese influence,” as executive chef Matt Kuhn explains. Kuhn, who was also the executive chef at NoPa, created a sous vide octopus dish for the new restaurant’s menu, and we spoke to him about the dish.
The Dish: Galician Style Octopus Carpaccio
The Restaurant: Olivia, Washington, DC
What was the inspiration for the dish? It’s a play on a classic Galician-style octopus dish with potatoes. So I kind of deconstructed it. We sous vide the octopus at 72°C for five hours with paprika, because the classic Galician-style octopus dish is braised with paprika, aromatics, fennel, garlic. And then for the potato aspect, we do pickled potatoes instead of braised. And we do a peri-peri chili aioli and then chicharron crumble on top. After we sous vide the octopus for five hours, we take off the legs, the head, cut it up, and then roulade it and wrap it with serrano ham to kind of keep with that Spanish tradition. And then shock it in ice water. The natural gelatin kind of glues all the tentacles together, so it makes like a giant octopus sausage. Then we slice it on the slicer. And that makes the carpaccio style.
Tell us about the ingredients. It’s pickled potatoes, with paprika and harissa powder, peri-peri chili aioli—it’s a West African chili. We make our own house-made chicharron, so we dehydrate and then fry them and then crumble them on top for texture. And there’s a lot of olive oil, a lot of lemon garnish on top. So it’s almost like a mosaic dish.
Why did you decide to use sous vide? Just because it makes the texture of the octopus the most perfect. It’s not overcooked, it’s not stringy, it’s not chewy, it’s not mushy. It just makes the perfect texture when you bite into it.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.