Food review: Grandpa Octopus in Central
Grandpa Octopus serves its namesake ingredient so fresh that some dishes are still moving when they arrive at the table, writes Susan Jung
The first thing you notice as you enter Grandpa Octopus is a large aquarium holding a number of small octopuses. Take a close look at the creatures as they move gracefully in the tank, but don't get too attached because at least one of them will be your dinner.
This is the only restaurant I know of in Hong Kong that specialises in octopus and serves them this fresh; so fresh, in fact, that for one course the tentacles are still moving when the dish arrives. Gruesome as that sounds, it is simply a reflex action.
After I called to book, I was e-mailed two options that needed to be pre-ordered, each with 12 courses and priced at HK$1,680. Both were octopus-focused, but one had more kani (Japanese crab) dishes, so I chose that one. (Grandpa Octopus' sister restaurant is Kanizen in Wan Chai, which specialises in crab).
We loved the spring rolls, made with what the waiter called "octopus jam and octopus meat". The filling was black and tasted of seafood. The horsehair crab came with oyster leaf and a dollop of French caviar.
Other highlights were the matsuba crab roe with home-made tofu, crab meat and Hokkaido premium uni; steamed horsehair crab meat with roe; sweet, moist, grilled taraba (king) crab legs; and taraba crab tempura with assorted vegetables, one of which was shiso leaf-wrapped corn.
The "Grandpa Octopus Fashion" sashimi came in what looked like a caviar tin. The waiter told us to lift the lid, and that's when we saw the moving tentacles. This was the best octopus sashimi we've tasted.
Pond, a dish with multiple components, was attractively presented. We liked the Japanese squid and the cold somen with caviar and shrimp, but the tomato jelly had an unpleasant texture.
We disliked the Stone dish, which the waiter said was very popular with other guests. Presented with real stones, it was a croquette filled with octopus, miso and fresh soya beans. But it was too rich and heavy.
We couldn't finish the last savoury course - taraba crab roe congee with chopped octopus - because we were too full.
Fortunately, the dessert was a simple choice of black sesame or yuzu ice creams. We were the only diners in the small restaurant (it seats about 20) that night, so it's not surprising that our waiter, while he was mostly discreet, hovered a little too much at times.
Grandpa Octopus, 48 Gage Street, Central. Tel: 2363 5656. Open: noon-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm. HK$1,680 per head plus 10 per cent