On my first visit to Fuel Cafe in 2008, I ordered the pan bagnat—a style of tuna sandwich that chef Patricia Wells refers to as a salad nicoise between slices of bread. That French-inspired dish, and its snappy balance of flavors, served as a perfect introduction to owner Bob Blair's fresh and elevated cooking. I was a fan.
And over the last five-plus years, I've remained a fan for reasons like this: At dinner a couple weeks ago, I ordered the octopus salami, because...how could I not? Octopus as salami, how would that work out? Quite well, in fact. The appetizer (pictured) was a stunner: thin, pressed seafood rounds topped with tangy giardineria (crunchy, pickled vegetables) and salami-stuffed olives.
For all of the preparation and technique (there's boiling, there's compressing, there's curing), the flavors are quite delicate. The octopus tastes simply of the sea, and the predominant note is of the vinegary veggies and the meaty, salty, fried (!) olives. That said, this is a dish that requires the perfect bite. A nibble of just the octopus doesn't yield much flavor, but a forkful piled with every component lends insight into the depth of Fuel's kitchen.
Bonus: Blair recently opened ReFuel, a sandwich lunch counter across the way.
3455 Ringsby Court, #105, 303-996-6988