Recently I checked out El Pulpo in Cleveland Park. El Pulpo opened this past summer in the space formerly known as Tackle Box and the pop-up locale for Bandolero (before moving to Georgetown).
El Pulpo is not your traditional Spanish tapas restaurant. It puts its own spin on traditional Spanish tapas by infusing them with influences from modern American cuisine. For example, mac and cheese is on the menu. El Pulpo’s version is made with manchego cheese and topped with crispy fried Serrano ham. It is one of the best mac and cheese dishes I’ve had. Other standouts are the roasted bone marrow mixed in with caramelized Vidalia onions and the short rib sofrito.
I have mixed feelings about the brussels sprouts. They come with those crispy brown edges I love, but the bacon vinaigrette, which is quite tasty, is relegated to the bottom of the bowl and doesn’t get a chance to sufficiently permeate the leafy sprouts. I also have mixed feelings about the chorizo paella. El Pulpo’s paella is very good but lacks the crunchy rice — scraped from the bottom of the paella pan — that is the hallmark of traditional paella.
The whole prawns, cocoa crusted strip loin, and foie gras and roasted vegetables dishes are solid but overall non-events. The roasted beet salad has a harshness to it from the raw beets that I don’t particularly like.
The baby octopus with pork belly confit falls short in my opinion. It is fried, a fact that is not alone offensive but should be noted on the menu. The pork belly confit is almost indiscernible in a sea of polenta. I’m not sure how that even happens. To top it all off, the dish was bland.
On the upside, El Pulpo’s staff is very friendly and the restaurant has a relaxed vibe that I really enjoy. Even better, our waiter told us the restaurant has begun serving brunch. All you can eat and bottomless adult beverages for something like $25. Hello! I think I know where I’ll be November 11 (day before Veterans’ Day holiday).
El Pulpo 3407 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington DC 20008 Phone: 202.450.6875 Hours: Monday-Thursday: 5pm-10:30pm Friday and Saturday: 5pm-11:30pm Sunday: 11am-2:30pm (brunch), 5pm-10:30pm