Courtesy of Daikaya

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The Dish: Fermented firefly squid 

Price: $6

Where to Get It: Daikaya Izakaya; 705 6th St. NW (second floor); daikaya.com

What It Is: “Hotaru ika” are tiny bioluminescent cephalopods native to Japan’s Toyama Prefecture. Their ability to emit a stunning electric-blue light from their tentacles earns them the nickname firefly squid. They are considered a seasonal delicacy and can be grilled, stewed, or fried, but eating one straight from the sea sans preparation is considered ideal. At Daikaya, Chef Katsuya Fukushima ferments the raw squid in their own juice and serves them underneath cubes of grapefruit marmalade, fresh grapefruit segments, and a thicket of lemony sorrel.

What It Tastes Like: Funky. Fermentation creates a symphony of intriguing flavors in these two-bite squids: sour and spicy (think ginger, not chilies). Tiny marmalade cubes are both bitter and cloyingly sweet, while the bright acidity of fresh grapefruit is a welcome reprieve from the other intense flavors. Texturally, the dish struggles. The squid are chewy and slimy, which a pool of oil doesn’t help. The grapefruit bursts with juice, but overall, the plate would benefit from something crunchy. 

The Story: Daikaya’s hotaru ika are inspired by a Japanese dish of tuna fermented in its own innards. Although traditional dishes featuring fermented seafood aren’t typically served with fresh fruit, Fukushima included the grapefruit and sorrel to help cut through the funk and make the dish more friendly for a wide set of diners. (Hotaru ika is not a top-seller.)  In fact, Daikaya is in the process of revamping its menu, and the jury is still out on whether the divisive squid will make it onto the updated list. Try the memorable bite in the next few months.