Let’s be honest. It’s rare to find a restaurant that expands into multiple locations and still manages to amaze at all of them. Could Chef Michael Young and Chef Luis Chavez keep making the amazing food that we first bragged about devouring at Bodega Taco Bar in Fairfied, and now Bodgea Taco Bar in Darien? Would they be able to keep the Mexican beach food kicking, full of bold flavors, and bring it? In short, hell freaking yes…and here are the reasons why based on a recent press dinner that we attended:
We had our fair share of drinks, trying almost every cocktail on the menu. One of the most refreshing drinks is the Figure 8, a cocktail made with Cabo Wabo anejo, rosemary, fig preserves, ginger, and O.J. This is a summer drink if we ever seen one! It was excellently balanced with the right amount of liquor and just the right taste of rosemary. Another drink we loved is the Bodega Girl, mixed with Corralejo reposado, strawberry-cilantro mash, and lemon juice. This was oh so berry-licious and the cilantro added a nice fresh bite too. Kristien could’ve had 10 of them! And Dan’s favorite was the spicy as hell Tomalito! Lastly, Kristien ordered the Bodega Surprise that included a scorpion from the bottom of the reposado. While most of us at the table were afraid of the scorpion, Dan placed it on his tongue long enough for a pic and even took a nibble. Doesn’t taste like much, actually.
Are fancy drinks not your thing? More of a tequila purest? Well, there’s also an amazing 68 tequilas to order and even flights like the Amazing Gran Centennario that we were privileged to try. We loved the Roseangel quite a lot. You can also have sangria, wine, and cerveza if that’s more your thing!
Dos: Garlic Infused Chili-Crab Guacamole
While we’ve had lots of different kinds of guacamole, we rarely get to have it with crab so we dug our tortilla chips in with excitement. The guacamole was fresh, the crab was delicate and not overpowering, and there was a nice spice coming from the garlic infused chili. We finished every last bit…it was that good.
Tres: Antojitos (little cravings) and sides
We had a chance to try out some of the smaller plates that Bodega is known for. First up were Empanaditas Champinoñes, smaller versions of empanadas stuffed with Portabella and truffle cheese. Definitely not your typical fried stuffed pastry at a Mexican spot, but that’s why we love Bodega. The crust was crispy and just thick enough, the earthiness from the mushrooms was nicely balanced, and the red pepper truffle aioli tied it all together with a lively brightness. We also tried the Sweet Corn Esquites which was a special that night. Fragrant corn served with beautifully cooked Plancha shrimp, Cotjia, and chili dust. There was a citrusy undertone to this dish that played nicely off the corn and the fresh cheese. Finally, we had the 3 for 10 sides which included Blistered Brussels Sprouts, Crunchy Corn Slaw, and Platanos con Creama. We were already fans of the Brussels Sprouts from Bodega Fairfield and we’re still major fans, keeping these at the top of our Brussels list. The platanos were just how we like ‘um: fried, delicate, ripe, a bit translucent (that’s the sign of a perfectly fried plantain). And, we also enjoyed the crunchy corn slaw which was a nice contrast in texture to the platanos.
Quattro: Chicken and Waffle Taco
Ever have the Zachary arepa (named after Michael Young’s son we learned) at Valencia? It’s Dan’s favorite and this lovely special on the menu takes that concept up a few hundred notches. Crispy fried chicken served with a corn salsita and drizzled with chipotle honey. This is a dish that you definitely must order because it is AH-MAZING.
Cinco: Real Deal Fish Tacos
Roasted Red Snapper came into the restaurant fresh, so naturally they were featured in our fish tacos. The fish came out to us cooked whole right in their beautiful Wood Stone oven and stuffed with spices and coconut. This was probably some of the juiciest and flavorful fish we have ever had in a fish taco. We’d flake off some, put it on the tortilla, add some grilled veggies, and some of the jalapeno salsa to make a killer taco. We definitely recommend this dish, if not for the amazing visual appeal, then for how good it is going down!
Seis: Arroz con Pollo Negro
Again playing off the classics, Chefs Young and Chavez took this dish in a new direction. Starting off, the base of this dish was black, forbidden rice. How good is forbidden rice? So good that Chinese royalty were the only ones allowed to eat it. Thank God Bodega has made it legal for us because this was another great dish. It was exciting, fun, and felt to us like a Mexican stir fry dish. The really nice touch was the crispy garlic chips on top.
It was ironic that one of our readers had asked us where to find great Chilaquiles only a day before. Well, after tasting this, we sent him a quick pic and told him he needed to get down to Bodega, stat. This is a classic Mexican dish that Chefs Young and Chavez prepared consisting of stewed pasilla chili tortillas, topped with queso fresco, avocado creme, and a perfectly poached egg. This was rich, beautiful, and prepared so well. Granted it was our first ever chilaquile and we have nothing else to compare it to, but we’ll venture to say that it’ll be hard to beat the flavor profiles with this version.
Ocho: Paella de Mariscos
Our eyes lit up when we saw that paella was on the tasting menu, because, um, paella is awesome. This version included shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari, saffron, and rice. The seafood was cooked nicely, even the shrimp which always tends to be overcooked, so it was obvious to us how much care went in this dish. The rice itself was full of flavor and had a nice hint of saffron with even the slightest touch of orange. We ate it all, right down to that rice that gets crispy on the bottom of the pan.
Yeah, so we obviously didn’t eat enough, so Chef Young (have we ever said how much we love him?) brought over two desserts for us to try. First up were the churros which we have nomed on before. Like last time, they were beautifully crispy on the outside, yet remained ooey, gooey on the inside. The chocolate dipping sauce was silky and decadent. And, we finished it all off with a special dessert that hopefully you can get your grimy paws on: Upside Down Vanilla Cake. Okay, so, really…what’s so special about an upside down cake? How about the candy bacon and pineapple that’s served on top? EEF yeah! The cake itself was moist and delicious, while the pineapple and bacon combo on top was just perfect because there was that nice fruitiness paired with a salty smokiness. The thing that made this an amazing dessert was that it wasn’t too sweet at all and the bacon added a slightly crunchy texture to play off the moist cake.
We’d follow Chefs Michael Young and Luis Chavez anywhere. If they said, “Jump off this bridge, we’ve got some killer tacos waiting for you,” we’d consider doing it for a hot second! If they opened a new restaurant in Antarctica, we’d trudge through the snow just for a taste. All hyperbole aside, we are very impressed to see how slick and sexy Bodega Darien is and how the food keeps delivering. The drinks are balanced nicely, full of flavor, and definitely hit the spot. Because Bodega is a smaller restaurant, be prepared to wait for a table…but with such a nice bar and cocktails, waiting ain’t so bad.
Bodega Taco Bar
Address: 980 Post Road
Phone: (203) 655-8500