Floriana owner Dino Tapper recently soft-opened a new Spanish tapas-inspired restaurant called Pulpo in Cleveland Park. But he hopes it won’t be just another small plates place. It’ll have some quirky twists too, especially after the grand opening later this month. Here’s what to expect:
An “octopus garden”: Pulpo infused its name—which mean octopus in Spanish—into many aspects of dining. With several octopus entrées on the full menu, there’s ample opportunity to taste the tentacles. But if a suction-cupped fish is too freaky to eat, customers will be able to see a live octopus at the fish tank behind the bar. That is, once Tapper receives the creature he’s having a fisherman catch from the Pacific.
Pasta-less pasta: Without going into much detail, Tapper says he’ll incorporate elements of molecular gastronomy into the full Pulpo menu. “It’s the staff having fun,” he says. “It’s us playing with food.” The only “molecular gastronomy” entrée he’d talk about is a pasta-less ravioli that incorporates carrot, beet, and pea puree—but no flour. It’s lined with an acid wash and served on a bent spoon. “You eye-drop the liquid into the wash, and it very lightly creates a skin around it,” Tapper says. “When you put it in your mouth it’s like biting into a pea.”
Cold kitchen: A raw bar offers fresh seasonal ingredients each day—there’s no microwave or freezer at Pulpo—that’ll eventually compose 22 dishes. (During the soft-opening, there are eight). Tapper is serving slices of pork from a black-footed pig, which he calls “prosciutto on steroids.” The pig exclusively eats acorns and, once killed, is cured for 24 months. (Correction: Due to a reporting error, this post originally stated incorrectly that the pork slices were connected to the history of the term “tapas,” which the post also misstated the origins of.)
Fruit-juice cocktails (and mocktails!): The restaurant isn’t expecting to receive its liquor license until at least this Friday. Until then, the drink menu will feature virgin twists on its cocktails as well as a house-made version of Coca-Cola. “We wanted to do a lot of classic Spanish-inspired cocktails with sort of a modern twist on them,” says managing partner Mike Finkelstein. “We don’t want your typical beverage program that you see over and over and over again.” Drinks like pulpo picante and la sandia de la vida use passion fruit puree and watermelon juice. Pulpo will make all its own simple syrups and fruit purees in-house.
A couple weeks after he receives the liquor license, Tapper says he hopes to host a cocktail party to welcome the community. Eventually, Pulpo will also have a roof deck where customers can look over the Cleveland Park area while sipping on a ginger iced tea or strawberry mojito.
Pulpo, 3407 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-450-6875; pulpodc.com
Photo by Stephanie Haven