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Charred Octopus at Alison Eighteen

A new chef proves herself with a mastery of a tricky mollusk

Alison Price Becker believes in the maxim “change is good.” So the proprietor of her like-named restaurant is shaking things up a bit. In June, she’s ushering in an oyster and rosé festival to inaugurate a new raw bar in the restaurant’s lounge.

Alison 18 cctopus

But the big news is the fresh new face in the kitchen: executive chef Roxanne Spruance, who is wowing diners with innovative flavors, especially a charred octopus with shishito, pine nuts, red onion, sake and lemon ($17 appetizer/$33 entree). What’s especially novel is the chef’s technique–instead of tenderizing it by slamming its tentacles against a hard surface, Spruance cures the octopus with salt and Japanese togarashi pepper, which lends the dish a deep, red pepper flavor. Shishito leaf and sake enhance the Eastern notes while the pine nuts, ground into a “butter,” sneak in a Mediterranean ambiance.

The dish’s exemplary texture seals Spruance’s fate as an up-and-comer to watch. At 28 years old, Spruance has been working in kitchens since the age of 14 under the tutelage of culinary giants such as Christian Delouvrier, Dan Barber and Wylie Dufresne. Other new, not-to-miss dishes: white asparagus tartar ($14), butter poached steelhead trout ($31) and a Long Island duck for two ($62).

Alison Eighteen opened in January 2012, marking the return of restaurant world veteran Alison Becker Price, whose Alison on Dominick was one of Downtown’s most romantic restaurants for 13 years until it closed in 2002. After moving the restaurant to the Hamptons, 10 years later, Price breezed back in town without missing a beat.

Alison Eighteen
15 W. 18th St.

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