It’s official, Chef Michael Young is seriously a culinary god. Yep, I said it. It’s impossible for anyone to deny it when he owns a restaurant as awesome as Valencia Luncheria, was Executive Chef at Habana when it was awesome back in the SoNo days, and Ocean Drive, when it, too, was awesome. And now (of course) the recently opened Bodega Taco Bar in Fairfield. Oh yes, Bodega Taco Bar was every bit as amazing as one would think if they’ve ever experienced Chef Michael Young’s food.
In true Chef Michael fashion, Bodega Taco Bar is no ordinary taco bar. Sure there are tacos… and they’re amazing. Sure there’s tequila… over 30 of them in fact. But there’s also a plethora of creative and unique platos (principal plates), tortas (sandwiches), antojitos (little cravings), and sides with a sexy Latin twist to keep you from getting bored with the same old Mexican standbys (not that we don’t love ‘em). In fact, the selections were so amazing we (as usual) labored over what to get for way too long. But then again, so did our dinner mates, long time Valencia fans, Dave and Jo Plain.
Well, let’s start with the ambiance. If you’ve ever been to Valencia Luncheria, you’re probably expecting that “hole in the wall” vibe at Bodega Taco Bar, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The spot is fairly small with about 4 or so 4-person tables, a handful of tallboys, and a nice sized dine-at bar. But they sure did pack a lot of coolness into that small space. Wow, I haven’t said coolness since the early 90s. Anyway, it had a very sleek and clean design with a beautiful repurposed wood bar, tables and walls, to a brushed steel bar base, to a dark metal rafter ceiling with amber-ish glass light fixtures hanging down. Really, just the perfect combination of materials to give it that sleek-finished feeling, but still feel relaxed and down-to-earth.
After a bit of a wait, which is probably going to be the norm for quite some time, we dove into the menu. No questions asked, we all agreed on some guacamole to start. The guacamole was freshly made to order with chunks of tomato, cilantro, a hint of lime and jalapeno for a nice kick. Danny and I both swore we tasted some sort of hot sauce, but our waitress didn’t think it had any. Whatever, we’re sticking to it. Either way, this guac was a great start to our meal. We also accompanied this, and the rest of our meal, with some margaritas which were tasty too!
Next up we all shared the Bodega Grilled Corn, the Blistered Brussel Sprouts, and the Yucca Fritas. S0, OMG we are going to have dreams about the Bodega Grilled Corn for months, years even. What could be so awesome about corn you ask? Oh, my friend, one bite and you’ll be in corny heaven. Err, yeah. Just picture perfectly grilled sweet corn loaded with butter, lime juice, cotija cheese and ancho chili dust for a little kick. RE-DONK-U-LOUS. Words can’t even describe. Then, next best by a very close second was the Blistered Brussel Sprouts. Cooked perfectly to give them that nice crispiness, almost caramelized with what we believe was agave syrup for just the right amount of sweetness to balance the bitterness inherent to the those yummy little sprouts! And last, but still pretty tasty were the Yucca Fritas, cut thin like potato sticks with just the right amount of oil and salt to flavor them up.
And just when you thought we were done with the appetizers (do you even know us at all?), Danny and I also shared our must-have appetizer, the Ceviche de Mariscos. We are pretty picky about our ceviche and this bad-boy did not disappoint. Not only were the shrimp and scallops incredibly fresh tasting, but they were also bathed, along with avocado, in just the perfect amount of citrus and tomato juices. And for the perfect final touch, it was served with a delicious tostone, or a twice-fried plantain that looks like a potato cake.
Onto the main course. Danny and Dave ordered the same thing, three tacos: an Americano, Argentino and Cochinita Pibil, a tender pulled pork taco with refried beans, cilantro and pickled red onion. They unanimously loved all three tacos, but the Americano was a stand out in their minds. The only crispy taco on the menu, the Americano was full of flavor with perfectly seasoned ground beef, manchego cheese and salsa rusa. The Argentino was also a terrific, juicy, flavorful combination of perfectly cooked hangar steak asada, charred onion, cilantro and salsa de chili de arbol. Then, because three tacos are never enough, Dave ordered another Americano and Danny got the Baja based on the waitresses recommendation. Danny was blown away by the Baja which was packed with panko crusted mahi mahi, fresh pico de gallo and just a nice touch of lemon aioli.
Jo ordered the Seared Scallops platos with roasted corn and fresh tomatoes, which while pretty small, she said was delicious. And I ordered the Pollo Rico tortas because it had goat cheese, and you know I have never been one to pass up anything with goat cheese. Ever. Goat cheese wasn’t the only thing awesome about this sandwich. Add a juicy chicken breast, slap on some refried beans, some deliciously caramelized fried plantains and tangy pickled red onions in between what seemed to be freshly baked, thick and hearty bread. It was an absolutely fantastic flavor combination that I will have a hard time forgetting.
So if after reading this post you’re not already en route to Bodega Taco Bar, get there pronto, and go back mucho times because there are so many amazingly creative dishes to try there from their tacos and beyond. This spot is sure to become not only a Fairfield fave, but likely a destination people travel for much like Valencia Luncheria, because that’s just how Chef Michael Young rolls.
Cost: $$$Bodega Taco Bar Address: 1700 Post Road Fairfield, CT Phone: (203) 292-9590 Site: http://www.bodegatacobar.com/