The 65-seater was opened by chef Pete Peterman, who has done turns in most of the best restaurants in town, including Hannah Bistro, the American and the now-defunct Stolen Grill and Trumpets. Sitting in the unfinished dining room, smoking a cigarette, the husky Peterman explains that the restaurant's odd name refers not to a dish on his menu but to his attitude. "An octopus can change color, just as we plan to frequently change our menu," he says. "It's all about adaptability."
Peterman will run the restaurant with his sister, Deborah, who recently was laid off from her job at Sprint.
He likes the location (which used to be a pizza joint and, after that, a saloon) because, he says, it's close to "lots of farmers ... who are going to sell [him] fresh produce." It doesn't hurt that there's not much restaurant competition. "This isn't going to be a fine-dining restaurant," Peterman says, despite the stylish dishes on his first menu: miso-and-coffee-lacquered duck with lemon grass and duck-oil mashed potatoes; blocked saddle of beef with leek-thyme gratin; and rib roast of lamb with red pepper jus. "This is a steak-and-potato neighborhood," he says.
The Petermans plan to have tablecloths but are arranging to have them tie-dyed; plates will be mismatched. There will be a smoking section, and there won't be a children's menu. "We just want our customers to be able to come in and have fun -- and a great meal," he says.
Closer to the hub of the city, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art has had an unexpected payoff from its current Wayne Thiebaud: Fifty Years of Painting exhibit. The museum's restaurant, Café Sebastienne, has been packed every day, according to chef Jennifer Maloney. Thiebaud is famous for his canvases of cakes, pies and confections, but Maloney and her crew haven't paid any specific culinary tribute to his works. Maloney noted one day recently, however, that Sebastienne staff member Jennifer Arnold was just then "frosting a chocolate buttermilk cake that could be a painting."