Restaurateur and chef Ray "Pete" Peterman, the head squid at The Sour Octopus (11129 North Oak Trafficway), believes he has the answer: a $28 prix-fixe dinner with no fewer than seven courses. And usually nine. That's all he's doing now, having officially tossed out the à la carte menu last month. He still changes the menu every day, but now customers who wander out to his far-north location (about 20 minutes from midtown) get a culinary adventure for the price of a single entrée at one of the more expensive chophouses.
Peterman says he typically starts the dining experience with one or two appetizers, a soup or salad (or both), a seafood course, a meat course, two desserts, a cheese course and a pop-in-your-mouth finale of some kind, such as the other night's tempura-fried chocolate truffle.
The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Saturdays. Diners who are interested in the multicourse meal have to call Peterman at the restaurant (816-734-1950) to make a reservation because he's no longer accepting walk-in customers. "Not that I ever had that many," he says. "Because of our location, the only people who wandered in without calling were the locals, and they took one look at the menu and left. "
Peterman, who is built like a linebacker, is defensive about patrons calling for a reservation before 5 p.m. "The bread goes into the oven at 4:30," he says. "If I don't have a head count by then, that's it." But that's the only limit Peterman puts on time. Another new rule is that the restaurant stays open, he says, "until the last customer decides he or she wants to leave."
On weekend nights, Peterman has hired the charismatic Randall Horton (former co-owner, with his wife, Janice Horton, of the original La Bodega restaurant at 59th Street and Holmes) to oversee the front of the house while Peterman shakes those pots and pans in the kitchen. Horton is a legendary night owl himself, so it's possible that those nine-course dinners could stretch out until nearly ... breakfast.
And what does Peterman do on the rare nights he doesn't have a reservation? "I just go home and watch Iron Chef on TV," he says.