September 24, 2018 | BITE: My Journal
Come From Away: Ibiza Tapas
Feroe Islland salmon with maple syrup and aged sherry vinegar is served on crisp rice soccarat.
Alas, I don’t feel I have a choice. It’s not like I had big plans for Saturday night when my one-time tapas buddy, photographer and Spanish grapenut Gerry Dawes, called to say I needed to explore Ibiza Tapas Wine Bar. Dawes, mono-manically crazed champion of everything Spanish, had made Manhattan tapas rounds with me in 2008 (Click here to read Manhattan Tapas Crawl). He’s bold and willing. He and his wife Kaye would drive down from Connecticut to pick me up.
“That’s crazy,” I say. “If you’re coming to New York, let’s have dinner here.”
The wines list offers 14 whites from Chile, Spain, Italy, California amd Uruguay, plus two dozen from Spain.
On reconsideration of geographic challenges, it seems the owner of Ibiza will send a car and driver. If tapas coercion were a little bit sexier, I would expose this plot on #MeToo. I certainly feel slightly pressured, but I am free after all, and the traffic going north won’t be like Friday night. Now it sounds like an adventure and I agree to come.
The dining room is separated from the bar by colorful glass panels.
At last. We pull into the designated lookalike little mall. I’m here. A blur: Ibiza stretches long and wide with a 14-seat banquette running the length of the room, a bright painting at one end and tiny fiber-optic lights embedded in the bar-counter.
Gerry Dawes, passionate lover of all things Spanish, insisted I came to Danbury for dinner.
Dawes and his wife Kay sit sipping a sparkling rosé with Robert Brown, author of Restaurant Politics.com and his mate, Susan Reinhold of the graphics gallery Reinhold Brown. I’m offered my choice of seats and Gerry pours some pink bubbles for me.
Legend says one in nine shishito peppers will be torrid. My two are just a bit hot.
A waiter delivers a platter of fried shishito peppers and Dawes introduces Ibiza’s owner Ignacio Blanco – he’s not a cook, Dawes says, but he’s the creator here. Blanco protests. Salt-cured tuna scallops with tomatoes, red onion, ginger and scallion are set before us.
“This is not authentic Spanish food,” Dawes announces, spearing some tuna for his wife and some for me. “It’s all invented by Ignacio.”
Salt-cured tuna is served with tomatoes, red onions, ginger, scallions and micro greens.
“But of course we have Gil Trejo,” Ignacio protests. “He is the chef.”
“But you dream up this stuff,” Dawes persists.
Salt-baked sea basss with raisins, pinenuts and paprika oil sits atop potatoes, carrots and mushroom confit.
The tuna plates are removed to make way for a stunning platter of salmon rectangles smeared with sweet tomato sauce, a scattering of baby greens and orchid flower petals on top. It looks like a festival against the black painted wood table. Not till I taste it do I realize the fish is sitting on a nutty crisp. It’s socarrat, the baked-on crust that sticks to a paella pan.
Large shrimp served in a bowl with a dressing of garlic, parsley, lemon, tomato and guindilia pepper.
Now it’s time for shrimp. The first little bowl is garlicky with parsley, lemon, tomato and Guindilla pepper. Large grilled shrimp in barbecue-scented seaweed escabeche are mounded in a second dish.
Grilled Stonington scallops with pickled onions and drops of alioli nest on black socarrat rice.
Smoked Galician octopus with smoked Spanish paprika, cucumber and mango follows. The tender chunks are sitting on smoky bomba rice. Scatterings of coarse salt bite the tongue. Black rice socarrat appears again, this time under grilled scallops decked out with radish, pickled onions, and little sprigs of green. There are small islands of aioli on the plate and more sauce in a bowl alongside.
Romesco escabeche flavors the duck confit cannelloni.
All these tapas are filing. I find myself staring at the salt baked bass strewn with raisins and pine nuts on a hill of potato, carrot and mushrooms confit, and groaning. I take a small taste.
“Just one more dish,” Gerry assures us. “Or maybe two,” he corrects himself.
I plan to take just a small taste of the foie gras hazelnut nougat layered with salt-cured tuna.
A plate of fresh fruit cut in chunks signals that dinner is reaching a dessert climax.
Each individual cannelloni of duck confit with foie gras and veal in Romesco escabeche seems large, but it’s so good. I manage a few bites. I plan to take just a small sample of the foie gras hazelnut nougat, colorfully layered with salt cured tuna, and caramelized mango on toast on rich streaks of Pedro Ximenez reduction. It turns out to be salty and lush and sweet. I manage to put away a substantial little pileup.
Desserts accumulate including donuts to dip in chocolate. The evening’s only flaw, curdled chocolate.
There is cheesecake among the desserts. I can resist that too.
I consider abstaining from dessert, but then it appears. Gerry spoons up some crema catalana (the Spanish inspiration for crème brûlée). I take a spoonful of the crackle and custard of his dish, and then another.
I have bypassed most of the desserts to save myself for two spoonsful of crema catalana.
The long drive home always seems faster. Especially when you’ve been basted and amused and stuffed brillantly in good company and you manage to fall asleep.
93 Mill Plain Road. Danbury, CT. 203 616 5731.Tuesday to Thursday 5 pm to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 pm to 11 pm. Sunday 5 pm to 9 pm. Closed Monday.
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