After taking a trip to Barcelona, Spain a couple years back we became a little “tapas shy” back here in the states. Ok, we know what you’re thinking, OmNomCT shy about anything, let alone food? Yeah right! It’s true though! We had such amazing tapas in the motherland that we were afraid we might be a bit disappointed by the local tapas spots. But, after Ibiza owner, Ignacio Blanco assured us that his tapas were the real-deal (and he should know, he’s from Spain and has spent a lot of time there), we said, what the heck, let’s do it!So last Sunday evening we headed on over after we worked up an appetite failing miserably at a round of golf in Southbury. The restaurant is in a bit of an odd location within a strip mall, but they’ve done a nice job making you forget that once you get in. The walls are sleek and dark, the lighting dim, and there were some festive brightly colored paintings throughout, much like many of the tapas spots we went to in Barcelona. The scene wasn’t too lively, but it was a Sunday night which usually tends to be a chill night for restaurants. Before we went at it, we talked with Ignacio a bit and learned more about his experiences in Spain and his other restaurants, including Miegas (another tapas restaurant) in Norwalk which we LOVED but never got a chance to write up back in 2010.
Once we were ready to go the waitress greeted us with a smile and offered us up some drinks. The drink menu was solid…lots of moderately priced bottles of wine, mostly between $26-$35, with good by-the-glass options, cocktails, a few cava options, and red, white and cava sangria (because it wouldn’t be a Spanish restaurant without those)! Dan had one of his favorites, the Caipirinha (cachaca, muddled lime and sugar), which he says was one of the best that he’s had in the area. Kristien had the red sangria and thought it had just the right amount of carbonation and just the right (light) amount of sweetness. We moved on to some Spanish red wines later in the evening and were happy with everything…which tends to happen after a few drinks!The food menu, mastered by Executive Chef Gilberto Trejo and Chef de Cuisine Juan Carlos Flores, was broken down nicely…the top is all vegetarian, the middle is raciones (that’s larger tapas plates), the bottom left is seafood, and bottom right is meat. There were a good 6-15 options in each section making it hard not to order an obscene amount. Also, there were many of the familiar classics from our vacation in Barcelona, many of which are gluten free for those of you needing to stay away from that evil gluten. Let’s dig in…just note, some of the plates were smaller portions than usual so we could taste more.
Pan Tomaca: country bread, tomato, garlic, olive oil, sea salt. We had to get this because it was EVERYWHERE in Barcelona, and man did we eat a lot of it when we were there. It’s a simple dish, like garlic bread but with tomato on it. The bread was nice and toasty and there was a good amount of tomato, making it as good as we remember it to be.
Nevat: Nevat goat cheese, dry figs, walnuts, truffle oil toast. Gee, guess who was excited about this dish? Yep, Kristien can never resist a dish with goat cheese, or figs, or truffle, so this was the holy grail for her. It had just the right amount of everything, with the figs mixed into the creamy goat cheese and a nice drizzle of truffle oil on top. The bread was good, but could’ve been a tiny bit crunchier. The light salad on the side balanced it all out nicely.
Pulpo a Feira: octopus, potato foam, paprika, olive oil, and sea salt. We fell madly in love with Octopus in Barcelona and can’t resist it when we see it on menus since. They first steam the octopus, then grill it. We’re not sure if the steaming works, as the texture was a bit off. It did have a nice flavor though, and the potato foam underneath was so creamy and delicious.
Salpicon de Mariscos: shrimp, mussels, squid, sea bay scallops, bell peppers, tomato, onions, Albarino vinaigrette. This dish was much like a ceviche, but with vinaigrette instead. The seafood, which was quite abundant, tasted light and fresh and the peppers and onions gave it a nice crunchy kick. They also added in some crumbled egg yolks to add a little fattiness to an otherwise acidic dish. Very nice!
Atun Marinado: blue fin tuna, scallions, black olives, tomato, sesame oil, and crispy potato. This was a complex dish, with lots of flavors and textures going on. The fish was prepared nicely, with some warm notes from the sesame oil, balanced out by the saltiness of the olives and the brightness of the tomatoes and scallions. Another tasty dish!
Tortilla Espanola: potato and onion omelette with an aioli. This is another classic dish we indulged in often when we were in Barcelona. In fact, it was Kristien’s first dish when she got off the plane. Ibiza’s was just like we remembered it too, light, airy, moist, and packed with nice flavor from the onions. The bonus aioli added a nice tartness to boost the overall flavor. A definite winner!
Setas: Portobello and shiitake sautéed in olive oil, garlic, lemon, parsley, and Guindilla pepper. We loved how the lemon in this dish cut the earthiness, almost making it seem light. There was a good garlic undertone and the parsley added that herby bite too. We easily ate the entire thing up, which we don’t usually do with that many mushrooms. Delish.
Pato Asado: Roasted Bella Farm duck breast, polenta “croutons,” dates, smoked bacon, quince, and citrus sauce. Holy (expletive)…this was the best dish of the night! The duck was perfectly cooked, rich, savory and fatty just like it should be. As you know, duck can be a bit overpowering, so the citrus sauce lightened that bad boy up perfectly, making it seem lighter. The stuffing was a great complement too, adding a nice crunch to the dish.
Codfish Croquettes: George Bank Cod with an aioli sauce. We actually weren’t sure if we’d like these in fear they’d be too fishy, but they weren’t at all. The codfish was whipped up inside all light, creamy, and puffy, so much that you wouldn’t even know it was codfish. And, they were lightly fried, which we much prefer as we’re not a huge fan of heavily fried things. Overall, solid.
Grilled Calamari: crispy cauliflower and summer vegetable vinaigrette. There was a nice char on the calamari, but with some pieces maybe a bit too much. The cauliflower was unexpectedly good and the vinaigrette rounded it all out nicely.
Panchetta: grilled pork belly, potato, and mustard seed puree with an orange and Muscatel vinegar sauce. That classic smoky, fatty pork belly melted in your mouth, while the creamy, yet chunky, mashed potatoes added a nice starchiness. The mustard seed gave it the perfect tart kick, all which made this dish a big winner!!
Hamburguesitas: beef, oxtail, and foie gras sliders with caramelized onions. The burgers were super moist, but a bit on the super rare side. Ignacio said they do that intentionally to highlight the foie gras, otherwise it would be lost in the mix, which made sense to us. The caramelized onions added a rich sweetness to the burger, making it another well-balanced dish.
Paella Cous Cous: chorizo, morcilla, chicken, vegetables, saffron. This was a non-traditional, but fun take on a paella with couscous instead of rice. The paella was full of flavor from the broth and saffron, and the meats and veggies were cooked very nicely.
Squid Ink Noodles: squid ink is another thing we fell in love with in Barcelona, especially Danny. The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, with a rich, creamy sauce on top. The tomato added a nice acid to cut both the starchiness and that slightly bitter flavor that comes from the ink. Quite nice!And, if all that hasn’t make your waistband tight just thinking about it, we gave pretty much all their desserts a try as well. Oh, it hurts…
Bread Pudding: the bread pudding was cold, though we prefer warm, but it was rich, moist, and not too bready like some bread puddings can be. The sweet and sour strawberry sauce went nicely with the tart frozen yogurt and perfectly cut the richness of the bread pudding.
Chocolate Croquettes: these were meant to be taken like a shot in a spoon in one mouthful. The chocolate was rich, much like a truffle but softer…and colder.
Creme Brûlée: a classic creme brûlée with the coveted crispy shell and creamy, silky inside. Nicely done.
Olive Oil Cake: this was the most savory of our desserts. The rich cake mixed nicely with the creamy mousse, and the tart yogurt cut everything nicely to tone down the richness.
Mojito: this was our favorite dessert, probably because we just indulged in a ton of heavy foods and this was the most refreshing. It was essentially a refreshing frozen mojito on top of a delicious coconut cream, topped with whipped cream with a touch of minty flavor. Mmmmmm.
Final ThoughtsWe have to say, Ibiza lived up to Ignacio’s promises of being the real-deal. Almost everything we enjoyed (and man, we enjoyed a lot) was spot-on and super authentic to the motherland of tapas. Many bites took us right back to our wonderful vacation in Barcelona, making us want to go back. We’d venture to say Ibiza is the most authentic tapas place we’ve hit up in our area, making it a must-eat for all you tapas lovers out there!
Ibiza Restaurant & Tapas
Address: 93 Mill Plain Road