Ibiza Tapas in Hamden
I had a late dinner earlier tonight at Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar in Hamden which just opened yesterday (Friday). I must admit that I'm extremely biased in favor of this place merely existing, having grown up just a couple of blocks away and having waited at a school bus stop one year at the very corner Ibiza is now located. For those of you also from the neighborhood, it's located next door to what used to be the old Cherry Hill Pharmacy (now a jeweler's).
The restaurant hasn't yet received its liquor license from the state, so I was offered a complimentary glass of Spanish red wine while I perused the 3 page menu. It's tapas, and nothing but tapas: Hot, cold, traditional & modern. And every food item is priced below $10.
I thought I'd start off with two items: the arugula salad, which I've had before at Meigas in Norwalk, and gnocci with braised oxtail., which was new to me. The arugula was the dandelion type (not the baby spinach style), very lightly dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette (every leaf was coated, but no pool at the bottom of the bowl), and 4 wedge slices of manchego cheese. Perfectly simple, and a very generous amount for a tapas.
The gnocci were small, like orichette ("ear-shaped") pasta, and filled with something (I forgot to check or ask), with snow peas, in a sauce from the braised oxtail. Delicious, and again, a generous portion (same-sized bowl as the salad came in; this was from the "large tapas" section of the menu, all $9.75 each).
I would have loved to try others, but I was stuffed from just these two items, dining alone. Needless to say, if these portion sizes remain and are typical for the entire menu, you can easily share each with at least one other person and create your own little feast.
I was offered a complimentary dessert of rice pudding in a martini glass topped with a small scoop of mango ice cream. A very refreshing end to a quick meal on a very miserable, rainy night. The restaurant was about half full, impressive considering the late hour, the rain and the lack of a lighted sign out front. It was noisy and everybody seemed to be having a great time. If you've ever been to this location in its prior incarnation as a Columbian or Vietnamese dive, you'll be impressed by the tranformation of the interior.
Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar
1832 Dixwell Ave, Hamden, CT 06514
I ate here when it was Columbian food, but was not impressed enough to keep coming back. I guess this is from the same people with Ibiza in downtown New Haven?
This area may become a new "restaurant alley" for us with The Terrace (Thai) just down the street and Mickey's just up the street. I also intend to try Szechuan Delight, two blocks down towards The Terrace.
Yes, same owner as Ibiza downtown.
I tried The Terrace shortly after it was featured in the NH Advocate and was turned off by the excessively long wait for our meals and the excessive charges incurred for same. The food was well-prepared, but just not worth it, in my opinion.
I've never been to Szechuan Delight for the simple and rather arbitrary reason that my parents (and their dog!) experienced such a bout of food poisoning at this location 15 years ago (under a previous name/owner) that I could never bring myself to enter the premises again and incur their disapproval from beyond. Illogical, but true. They're owned by the same people that run Formosa in North Haven, whose separate Chengdu menu still delights me in its authenticity (cold spicy beef intestines! kung pao chicken with only peanuts, water chestnuts & whole chilis! real dry-fried szechuan beef with actual lip numbing szechuan peppercorns (and no chilis)!).
Unfortunately between Ibiza and MIckey's is a gauntlet of mediocre national chains (Chili's, TGIF, Applebee's (and one mediocre local one, SBC)) and the big four fast food chains. Just put on your blinders and keep driving. Real food awaits.
rbailin, have you been to Lao Sze Chuan in Milford? I've been to both LSC and Formosa and LSC wins for me. Since you've mentioned it, we actually had the whole lip-numbing/alters-the-taste-of-water experience of Szechuan dry-fried beef with jalapenos at LSC with the peppercorns. That particular dish was not a favorite for either of us due to the very results you describe, but since you like this dish, you'll probably love it. Here's a link to a photo of it at LSC:
And we tried the pig's ear, too. No, sir, I didn't like it. A pig's ear is pretty sinewy. But I do LOVE Lao Sze Chuan...and it's nowhere near my house, so extra points for being so good I don't mind driving about 45 minutes to get there.
Just curious, where do you prefer Thai over The Terrace? My only NH point of ref is Bangkok Gardens.
I've been to LSC only once, about a year ago, and had what I believe was a beef hot pot. Not a great dish to test a szechuan restaurant with, but I didn't know better at the time. I've been meaning to return to give it another try, but like you, it's a bit of a hike from northern Hamden, factoring in the near constant clog at the I-91/95 interchange.
My favorite Thai in the area was Thai Inter on State St before they moved out to Guilford. Haven't been to the new place yet, nor the replacement at the old location. So I don't really have a favorite Thai on this Father's Day.
Getting a bit OT here, but I recommend Rice Pot on State Street or Som Siam in Guilford. You'll find a lot about Som Siam on this board, but I don't know what you'll find about Rice Pot. IMO, Rice Pot is a nice mainstream, above-average Thai. (As opposed to the mainstream, good-enough-for-benighted-Yalies Thai places on Chapel St.)
I can easily answer the question about great Thai - Rice Pot on State Street in New Haven (near Edwards, across from The Pantry and Mezcal). GREAT Thai food!!!!! Don't waste time on Bangkok Gardens- fine for a lunch meeting but that's about it. Thai Awesome in Hamden is not bad but tends to be a bit greasy. If you are ever in New Haven around lunch, try the Jasmine Thai Cart on Church just in front of Willoughby's. Really friendly people and great food at a very inexpensive price.
OH..and I finally made it to Ibiza Tapas two weeks ago. WONDERFUL food!!!! The tapas rivals what I've had in Spain. Will definitely go back.
I was at Ibiza Tapas for their opening party, but could not get an accurate telling of what was going on food wise being that the place was sooo packed. I heard that the police came to move everyone into the building later on that same night. So thank you for the details. It sounds good enough to go back for an actual meal.
Did you ever eat at Pika Tapas before they made the change to Ibiza in 2002? I'm wondering how similar Ibiza Tapas is to Pika Tapas. I loved it when Luis Bollo was executive chef, but only ate there once after Manuel Romero came in as sous chef. I have thoroughly enjoyed Romero's work as executive chef at Ibiza.
Do you know who is running the show at Ibiza Tapas? I can't find any information on that. I'm not sure if Ignacio Blanco is still involved on a culinary level with either Ibiza or Meigas, but he is mentioned on the front page of the Ibiza Tapas website. I wonder if Bollo or Romero are involved, or if he has imported yet another great young chef from Spain.
I've been a big fan of all of Blanco's other restaurants: Pika Tapas, Meigas in Lower Manhattan, Meigas in Norwalk, Mediterranean Grill, Meson Galicia, and Ibiza. Outside of Jose Andres's restaurants in DC, his are the only restaurants I've eaten at in the US that measure up to the food in Spain. As you can probably tell, I'm pretty excited about his new place.
Pika Tapas lives! (sort of)
I went with my wife and a friend to Ibiza Tapas last night, and while I neglected to ask about just who was involved in the kitchen, I can report that it's a lot like an even purer version of Pika Tapas. Many of the same dishes are on the menu, and some I know (e.g., the fresh anchovies, the little croquettes of bacalao, etc.) are essentially the same as always. The "large tapas" section isn't a set of main courses (and there's no paella on the menu...), so this really is an exclusively tapas oriented place.
That format seems to have failed for Pika Tapas because New Haven diners didn't understand it: they looked at the menu and saw lots of first courses, and then looked for the main courses, and proceeded to order one tapas plate and the paella. The result was the transformation into Ibiza, and while that is (in my opinion) the best restaurant in New Haven, it would still be really nice to have Pika Tapas back. It will be interesting to see if the Ibiza Cafe succeeds: I find it hard to imagine that the format will work in this Hamden location if it didn't in downtown New Haven, but I will be glad to be proven wrong about that.
If you can manage to get there within the next week or so, before they get their liquor license, it's an incredible bargain. They're still giving away wine by the glass, and our dinner (nine plates, including three "large tapas") was under $70 for the three of us -- though I should admit that we weren't charged for one of the plates, which was forgotten and then substituted by something we hadn't ordered (but which was good anyway).
Not knowing about the free wine, I brought some of my own. I had been told on the phone that they would charge a $10 corkage fee, which seems ridiculous given that they can't sell me any of their own, but no such charge appeared on our bill.
Anyway, whoever is in the kitchen seems to do the same good work as at the old Pika Tapas. The wait staff is another matter: they seem still be learning, and the less said about the service, the better. But I'm sure that will improve.
When they do get their license, there's a decent, if limited, wine list already on the menu. Perhaps they have another, more extensive list if you ask (which would be pointless until they can sell you some), but what's visible is not nearly as good as the list at Ibiza (or the fantastic one at Barcelona). Quite enough to wash down the fine tapas, though.
I wish them luck.
A $10 corkage is great! I would take that in a heart beat. I Haven't seen their wine list either, but if the same wines that they poured on the grand opening night are the same ones then expect good basic spanish table wines. Not mind blowing, but friendly wines. I am going down for dinner next Tuesday...what were some of the items that you had and any suggestions?
The wine list is on the back of the third page of the menu. A range of things, but a proper subset of the list at Ibiza.
Let's see... the fresh anchovies are always very good. The "noki" aren't really gnocchi, more like orecchietti (as mentioned by the OP), but with the oxtail sauce, very good. There's a "veal carpaccio" which is something like vitello tonnato, but without the tuna, and good. We found the rice with shrimp and scallops rather bland. My wife loved the sete (oyster mushrooms). A plate of ribeye slices on toasts was not a success, by me, but a skewer of chicken and chorizo was very tasty. The croquettas de bacalao are always good, and a plate of Spanish cheeses, while not tremendously varied, was interesting enough. We were offered a free dessert of little chocolate croquettes, each on a spoon with a creamy sauce, and these were delectable.
We ordered gambas al ajillo, but that never came. As I recall, this dish is not a standout at Ibiza, so maybe we didn't miss much. They also have a plate of heads-on shrimp, which I wish we'd tried. But that -- and some delectable sounding pork dishes -- are for next time.
I still think $10 is high for corkage (especially when you're not doing them out of wine sales, since they can't sell any!), but YMMV.
Portions are clearly optimized for two or four, by the way: three of us had to work on dividing things up.
I ate at Ibiza Tapas this weekend. Overally, I would rate it as very good, with potential to be excellent. The menu is very similar to what Pika Tapas used to do, and exactly what I expected from an Ignacio Blanco venture.
To start with the negatives, the service has room for improvement. It is definitely above average for the area, and some members of the staff are clearly quite experienced. There were a few staff members that seemed like they were still learning. Also, this is a tapas bar, so there is a casual air to the service. The table next to us seemed a bit put off by how casual the manager was about everything, but this casualness was not a detriment to the service. I have always found the management at Mr. Blanco's restaurants to be very eager to please. As an example, when our first round of food came, we got two dishes of gambas al ajillo instead of one gambas al ajillo and one gambas a la plancha, as we thought we had ordered. I think the mistake was actually on our side, but they gave us the extra shrimp dish for free and got us the gambas a la plancha very quickly.
They are still pouring free wine and beer until they get their liquor license. The offerings are an inexpensive red, white, and cava. I looked through the wine list, and it is excellent. It is not extensive, but in Spain the wine lists at tapas bars are usually even shorter. It does hit all the bases, however, touching all the major wine regions of Spain and ranging from good, inexpensive wines from Castile y Leon to fantastic, moderately priced wines from la Rioja. The prices are very fair, with smaller markups than I expected. As an example, I brought a bottle of 2002 Ondarre Reserva, which cost me $18 at the Wine Thief, and sells for more at other area liquor stores. A bottle is $30 on their wine list.
Now, the food. The food was mostly excellent with some minor disappointments. I tried the olives, gambas al ajillo, gambas a la plancha, fideua, noki, asparagus, baked goat cheese, and fried squid.
The fried squid was the best I have eaten in a long time, with minimal breading and a nice flavor.
The noki was delicious, but very slightly undersalted. The oxtail served with the noki was absolutely perfect, cooked to an incredibly soft texture with no stringiness at all.
The asparagus (I believe cooked a la plancha, but the menu did not indicate this) was also delicious, though some might call it plain. Dishes such as this in tapas bars require you to really like the main ingredient, and serve as a good break from the rich sauces.
The olives were a very pleasant surprise. I have not had small, pitted green olives this good since I was last in Spain. These olives, very typical of Spanish bar or tavern food, are firmer then what I have seen in the US, aren't stuffed with anything, and strike a balance between briny and oily. My one complaint about the olives is also true of the gambas al ajillo, noted below.
The gambas al ajillo was executed perfectly, with the garlic sauce every bit as rich as one could want. And that's the problem. Four shrimp can't hold six tablespoons of sauce. You need bread to get all that sauce up, because it's a damn shame for something so delicious to go down the drain. It is not typical for tapas bars to serve bread with a meal, though they do prepare some bread based dishes. I did eat at some in both Madrid and Barcelona that share my philosophy that you need bread or else you're wasting sauce, but this was not standard. I can't fault Mr. Blanco for staying traditional, but would have liked bread both for this dish and to dip in the oil left behind by the olives.
The fideua is a dish that I think the kitchen needs practice on. The flavor was there, but the texture of the noodles was not exactly right. It was more like an al dente pasta and scallops dish than the baked to a slight crisp noodle dish of Valencia.
The gambas a la plancha were cooked perfectly, and overall I was pleased by the dish. However, dishes cooked a la planch are very simple, meant to highlight the fresh, delicious locally available ingredients of Spain. Some classic tapas a la plancha cannot be perfectly replicated here in Connecticut, because the same ingredients are not available fresh and local. These were some of the fresher jumbo shrimp I've had in the Northeast, but do not compare to shrimp fresh out of the Mediterranean. This dish could be wonderful on the Gulf Coast or done with our more local pink shrimp. Despite this, I loved it, because cooking a la plancha makes for incredible shrimp heads. If you're not going to suck the heads, the dish is only ok, but it's a great dish if you suck heads.
The baked goat cheese was absolutely the highlight, just as I always though it was at Pika Tapas. The cheese is floating in a mild but full flavored tomato sauce, and served with toast. It is simple, but flavorful and delicious in its simplicity.
Overall, Mr. Blanco has put together a great little restaurant. The space is smaller than Pika Tapas, and has more of the feel of a tapas bar. The bold colors and sanded metal are a perfect example of modern Spanish design. This place could be in Madrid. The design of the menu shows a clearer understanding of Spanish cuisine than I have found anywhere else in the Northeast - even well regarded Manhattan restaurants - on the part of Mr. Blanco and his chefs (all from Spain and experienced in Spanish kitchens). Spanish food has its classic dishes, and the menu here hits many popular classic tapas. But Spanish cuisine also must be inventive and unbound by tradition. The food is about style, not centuries old recipes. Tapas bars are not like pubs. If you compare the menus of two tapas bars in Madrid, half the menu items will be standard, the other half will not overlap. Mr. Blanco has stayed true to this spirit. I can only hope he will continue to adapt and modify his menu over time. Pika Tapas did not do enough of this, and I think that hurt it. Ibiza has done this, which has kept me going back for the last seven years.
I should also add, the prices are great. Our bill worked out to under $25 per person. If I had to recommend somewhere in this area that is not in downtown New Haven, this would be my new number one recommendation, and it can only get better from here.
Our first meal was dinner recently. At 7:20PM they were about half full and it was mostly an older, somewhat sophisticated crowd.
We had Salmón Ahumado, a slice of toasted bread piled with house smoked salmon, capers, onion, chives, chopped egg and olive oil for $ 7.75. I consider this a "best buy". It was delicious and the salmon seemed raw.
We tried the "Ensaladilla Rusa" or “Russian” potato salad, Spanish-style. This had carrots and peas with a simple mayonnaise dressing. Very plain and good, but a little too plain for us. $4.00 was pretty fair.
Next was Ensalada de Alubias y Tirabeques, a warm butter bean and snow pea combo with fresh chopped tomatoes and scallions in a Moscatel vinaigrette (Granja). We liked this, but it needed a little more pizazz for our tastes and some of the snow peas were stringy. I am spoiled by fresh sugar snaps from our garden. These were meh and quite well cooked. $ 5.75
Last was a seafood dish of bay scallops, shrimp and mussels (I believe mussels-they were small and few), called "Fideuá". Catalán crispy noodles are mixed with the seafood and a lobster aïoli for $ 9.75. Don't get me wrong, this was a tasty and interesting dish with a slight crunch. I was not happy when I hit a serious sandy pocket in the dish.
Our neighbors had Grilled Spanish Chorizo with lentils $ 6.75 They loved it and it looked appetizing. They also had a chicken dish, Pintxo de Pollo y Chorizo, that they liked. They enjoyed their meal. One was a Chowhound reader, knew of my persona, and said he enjoyed reading my posts. Ahem.
We had a bottle of Reserve Rioja, whose name I cannot remember, but it was a distinct value at $30. They have had their liquor license for about a week. I understand they are selling their wines with little markup right now.
Service was incredibly good. They even crummed our table! We left with hardly a dent in our wallet at $66 before tip. This included the wonderful wine!
We will surely go back because this is very accessible for us and for people from North Haven, north New Haven, Hamden and Woodbridge because it is right at exit 60 on 15 (Wilbur Cross Highway), on Dixwell.
Our biggest and only significant complaint, however, is the noise level. Look at the images on their site: http://www.ibizatapaswinebar.com/
This is a snazzy place, but everything is butt smooth and hard. NO attention has been paid to noise attenuation. I cannot imagine what it is like when busy! This is one of our biggest issues with restaurants. We want to be able to talk. This was difficult most of the time AND they had music playing in the background. We noticed the music only as the crowd thinned around 8:30. They are not open for lunch but open at five and serve till ten and the bar stays open till 2AM on the weekend!
There was a study done about a year ago by a French research group which found that more alcohol was consumed if there was loud music in bars. There was not *loud* music per se at Ibiza Tapas, but it had a high noise level, overall. I don't know if they did this on purpose , or not, but the manager got "an earful" from us about the noise level.
I went with 2 girlfriends on Friday night and when we arrived it was about 3/4 full. We only had to wait a few min. for a table, but when we sat down the first thing we noticed was how warm it was. We were told that they were having A/C problems and they opened the front door and it was much better with some air flowing. The 2nd thing we noticed was how noisey is was. We each chose 2 tapas each and we loved every one that we were served. Sorry, I'm not good like Scargod & Danieljdwyer at reiterating them in detail :), but we thoroughly enjoyed all 6 that we chose. My friend and I both chose the chardonnay, because the waitress told us it was the "dryest" one on their list of whites, but both of us thought it too fruity. It's an adorable little place, but they really should do something about all the hard features, because it was extremely loud. And, as Scargod says above, I can't imagine what it's like when full. But all in all it was a nice evening. And I'm sure I'll go again.
Ibiza Tapas was a schizophrenic meal last night.
Loud, and almost full at 7:30, there might have been three tables vacant. Somebody brought a noisemaker that wasn’t needed. What SO thought was a noisemaker was a baby wailing. Hard to tell over the din. Several tables had children. SO said we would have to use sign language, then she just started shouting! Except for the seatbacks, along the wall, everything is glossy, butt smooth surfaces; even the room divider is smooth glass! What were they thinking? http://www.ibizatapaswinebar.com/
We had very good red wine. Nothing is over $35/bottle or $9/glass! We had premium wine @ $7.50 and at $9.00. I thought the cheaper Distinto (Shiraz blend), was just as good as the Ondarre, a temperanillo. It took a while to get our second round of wine. Prior to delivering the next round, the waitress ran off with my wine glass when it still had a decent swallow in it. She tried to do that with SO's, when later, we ordered one more for us to share. SO was on to her and snatched it to her bosom before the waitress could grab it. A funny exchange.
Things were really wacky last night. The manager (?) took our original order for wine. We then were addressed by our first waitress. We placed our order, and then a second waitress shows up to take our order. Saying we had ordered, she asked, “But, did you hear about the specials?” “Well, no, we didn’t heard about them”, I said. Several of the specials sounded tempting so we ordered two. Our first waitress, #1 (let’s call them #1, #2, #3 and #4 for clarity), comes by and says, “Sorry, they are out of codfish croquettes”, one of the specials she offered us. This was early in the evening, too! I order instead a different special, sautéed clam strips with rice. Then a third server, #3 shows up very soon after with, guess what? Cod croquettes!
#1 finished waiting on us for the balance of the meal, except for #4, after her asking if everything was OK, I notified her that our sautéed clam strips were MIA and if they were not forthcoming I wanted to cancel them. FYI: We had a lapse of about 15-20 minutes from the oyster mushroom tapas at that point and at least a 10 minute lapse in the last tapas before that. We were losing it… our appetite.
Then, almost like a miracle, the dish instantly appears in the hands of #1. We also specifically asked that cold tapas come out first and hot ones later. This happened, but not like it was supposed to happen. We kept waiting for the grilled oyster mushrooms, which were supposed to be a cold tapas. They came to us, fairly late in the meal, after a significant lapse in service, freshly made and piping hot!
The food: Spanish tapas are probably supposed to be simple since they are “snacks” or small plates/quantities. I felt like almost every ingredient was recognizable and most preparations were simple combinations. This was not a bad thing. Complexity and sophistication is not required. I liken many of them to preparing a simple soft taco: meat, onion, cilantro, lime on tortilla.
There was the grilled monkfish, cooked and served in with butter beans and the clam strips with rice (sautéed strips combined with rice and a few peas and chopped scallion), both simple and good. The rich broth of the clam dish was spectacular, while half of the clam strips tasted like stringy, chewy, fishy tasting strands of chicken breast meat. You know how the top surface of the breast gets when it is overcooked and dried out? Some pieces of clam were better and tenderer. I would assume that the tough ones were overcooked.
The cold, smoked salmon was delicious and the thin-sliced ribeye, toasted with tomato and cheese on bread, was good.
The codfish croquettes were not at all what I expected. I would call them puffball surprises! These airy-light, deep-fried balls seemed full with a warm, liquid center and bore little relation to a fish croquette. Still, they were surprisingly delicious and pretty!
The grilled oyster mushrooms, with lemon, garlic, parsley and EVOO rang clearly of each ingredient. While they were supposed to be a cold item, they were very tasty and we didn’t mind.
Verdict: There seems to be issues in the kitchen. Perhaps it is small and hard to keep up with the evening’s rush. There were too many lapses of significant duration; particularly, the last tapas. There was certainly confusion and minor ineptitude from the youngish waitstaff, #1& #2.
They are all supposed to wear all black outfits, of their own choosing. This makes them look very similar and they disappear and reappear like Ninjas, too.
The noise level is unbearable at peak load. We could hardly talk for an hour and magically, at 8:30PM, most of the patrons disappeared and it became serene. Like I said, a schizophrenic evening at Ibiza Tapas.
We spent $79 for our meal. I cannot complain about that. Try going around 8~8:30PM if you want a lower noise level. This seems to have become a Hamden local’s hot spot, with families showing up. Still a mostly 30’s to 50’s crowd.
Although I did miss some of the tapas we enjoyed on earlier visits which weren't on their last menu(the Gambas Plancha, the baked Queso Cabra from the Pika days, and the Pulpo Feira), Ibiza already adapting its offerings is a positive sign for variation.
The modifications of the ones that have stayed are equally as enjoyable like the Lomo Embuchado(still the same marinated and grilled pork loin with Tetilla cheese over Galician toast but now with olive, scallion, tomato, and paprika oil instead of a previous Romesco sauce version), the Atun Marinado/marinated bluefin(chef's whim variations), and the always superb Braised Oxtail(recently with rice instead of the earlier "noki" version).
There are still new faces to be seen working there but we've really lucked out with service from day one, even having recently been taken care of by a newcomer as capable as a couple of the other more experienced servers. Could see where the timing of some plates would be problematic during busy periods but ordering the cold tapas first and waiting to order the hot at least assures they'll be served in that order. On the last visit there was several wine by the glass substitutions that would have been easier to attach to the list itself instead of reciting them all at the beginning of the meal but at least they replace a region's bottling with another from the same. Tapas "tradition" or not...would love to enjoy an extensive selection of sherries/ports with the regularly changing desserts.