May's Can't-Miss Dish

By Ellen Bhang · 05/03/2021

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 

On the plate: Tentacle Hot Dog

Where to find it: With a fresh spring menu and the return of its lively Brookline patio, Ivory Pearl shines like a newly polished gem. This energetic spot on Beacon Street, which opened in August in the space that formerly housed Grassona’s Italian, is the latest venture of restaurateur and award-winning bartender Ran Duan. In a departure from Duan’s other spots—Baldwin Bar in Woburn, and Blossom Bar, near the Brookline Village T-stop—the focus here is seafood, not Sichuan. So treat yourself to a tower of oysters, crudo, and caviar, then peruse the “Classics & Sandos” portion of the menu. That’s where you’ll find a novel take on a familiar dish that features the most unusual frankfurter in town.

Notes on the nosh: Ivory Pearl’s Tentacle Hot Dog showcases an octopus appendage on a fluffy bun. “It has that ‘wow’ factor, because obviously it’s a whole tentacle,” says chef Jake Abramson. “When it hits the table, we want it to look fresh out of the sea.”

Fished from Spanish waters and delivered to the restaurant by Boston-based Wulf’s Fish, the octopus is trimmed, brined, and braised low and slow. Then comes a genius next step: “On the pick-up, it’s fried,” Abramson explains, referring to the moment before the dish is assembled. “It gets a little crisp to emulate the snap of a hot dog.”

The dish is a visual stunner, with violet-hued suckers of the octopus, Kermit green slices of Granny Smith apple, and fluorescent orange beads of trout roe. Even the house-made bun—a cross between Japanese milk bread and a Parker House roll—sports a glossy crust. On the first bite, lightly lacto-fermented cabbage—a crunchier, less-acidic version of classic sauerkraut—contrasts with the tender snap of the cephalopodic delicacy and the airy crumb of the bun. That mouthful is punctuated by zesty pickled mustard seeds and bursts of umami from the slippery fish eggs. Abramson says that guests are always surprised by the textures at play in this far-from-traditional hot dog.

“My goal is that when people eat this, it’s the best cooked octopus they’ve ever had—and that it’s almost humorous that they’re eating it in a bun,” he says.

Sip alongside: A cocktail called Golden Hour—a blend of aquavit, citrusy liqueur, and soda water—is garnished with a round slice of golden beet, wedged in a rocks glass so that its top half peaks above the liquid. Described on the menu as “inspired by Lambrusco,” the saffron-hued mixed drink looks nothing like the bubbly red wine of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna; but the cocktail’s subtle earthiness, lively acidity, and palate-cleansing fizz make it a worthy tribute to its source of inspiration.

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