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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Food
Feel
Price
9.3
7.0
$80
Spanish
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri noon–2:30pm
Fri 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Essential

www.ibizanewhaven.com

Chapel District
39 High St.
New Haven, CT
(203) 865-1933
Ibiza
New Haven’s temple to New Spanish cuisine is as good as ever—but its heaviness is growing old

There was a moment when it seemed that the restaurant that delivered New Haven’s culinary scene to the 21st century—Luis Bollo’s Ibiza—was slipping. Lately, the kitchen seems to have gotten its mojo back. Still, it doesn’t seem to have evolved much over the past half-decade. The menu hasn’t drifted at all away from the overrichness that dominated the first few years of 21st-century cuisine and toward the purer, simpler flavors that are driving the next generation. Perhaps this is why it’s no longer as difficult to score a reservation here: people are no longer as interested in spending this kind of money on such a heavy, complicated meal.

If there’s a unifying theme to this menu—other than the generalized notion of nouvelle Spanish—it’s unbridled richness and wintriness (even in spring), from crisp, melty croquettes of foie gras with jamón serrano (as good as ever) to “raviolis de rabo” that aggressively infuse pastry with oxtail, mushrooms, truffle oil, and foamy potato emulsion (a nod to Bollo’s molecular-gastronomy background). Underseasoned, impossibly heavy short ribs are just plain over the top, but we’ve enjoyed juicy codornices (quails), stuffed with shallots and porcini mushrooms and paired with gnocchi.

This kitchen likes sweetness almost as much as it likes fat, whether it’s in the honey with which cochinillo (well-crisped roast suckling pig) is lacquered, or the reduction of PX (Pedro Ximénez, a dessert sherry) that sweetens “lasaña,” whose supposed pasta is hard to find amidst all the unbelievable richness (duck confit, cheese, foie gras flan). Desserts are successful, but the wine list hasn’t developed much. For a restaurant on this level, more old vintages should be available, although we’ve found some reasonably priced Riojas (e.g. CUNE) that do well with the food.

The reasons why you won’t actually find us here much are a bit hard to pin down. Surely the service has something to do with it: it’s technically proficient but also a bit cold, a bit pretentious. Nor does the table layout encourage intimacy or good times. Could the décor be any more dated, or the weird wire chairs any less comfortable? Could the prix-fixe tasting menu leave you any more uncomfortably stuffed? It’s just not what we seek in a restaurant these days.

As food critics, our central responsibility is to exercise good culinary judgment, whatever our emotional impulses. And when we do that, we must admit that Ibiza still serves some of the best food in New Haven. But catch us in the dark corner of a bar, and we might be cornered into admitting, darkly, that when we go out to eat ourselves, the best food is not always what we seek.

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