Tapas bars and restaurants are popping up all over Tokyo these days, but El Pulpo may be the only place that bills itself as a "marisqueria" - a Spanish restaurant specializing in seafood. The food here is fantastic, using fresh seafood that's delivered directly from Odawara in Kanagawa Prefecture. The dining area is small and homey, with orange-colored walls and a friendly, bustling atmosphere that seemed like something you'd find in a Spanish port town.
A recent meal started with two of this restaurant's specialties - the sea urchin pudding and the fried seafood platter with shrimps, sardines and scallops. The pudding, served in shells, has a sensual flavor and a creamy texture that should appeal even to those who aren't fond of eating sea urchin raw. Another unusual dish is the marinated mackerel served with a gazpacho-style sauce. The flavor of the fish is complemented by the sour and sweet tomato flavors of the sauce, all of which go very nicely with a glass of Spanish cava (sparkling wine).
Also recommended is the boiled whitebait, mixed with egg yolk and served on a French baguette like a fish version of steak tartare. The result was very tasty, and we were surprised that such a bland-tasting fish could make such a powerful impression. We finished up with arroz meloso with squid ink. This is a creamy rice dish that's closer to Japanese okayu than it is to risotto, and the aromas of the stewed garlic and squid ink were a very appealing combination.
There's more than just seafood at El Pulpo, and in the autumn we highly recommend the seasonal mushrooms with pancetta. There are also traditional Spanish omelettes, served in huge portions, and excellent Jamon Serrano, displayed proudly on the counter. And you can discover unusual Spanish cheeses that aren't found very often in Tokyo.
The wine list is mostly Spanish, ranging from Y2800 to Y15,000 per bottle. Budget around Y5000-6000 per person for dinner. The dining room can fill up even on weeknights, so reservations are strongly advised.
by Hikaru Okabe