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Monday, November 29

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Review Wed Jan 06 2010

Tapas in Old Town Retooled

pintxoOld Town tapas restaurant Eivissa unveiled last month a new menu with the arrival of Chef Jorge Miranda. Updated offerings reflect a more straightforward approach to classic and new tapas. Largely gone are the modern flourishes employed Eivissa's original chef and Miranda's former mentor at Las Palmas, Dudley Nieto.

Named after the lively Spanish island, Eivissa still boasts extensive menus of cold and hot tapas, pintxos (think rustic hors d'oeuvres), cazuelas (slow-cooked casseroles), cured meats, paellas, flatbreads, Spanish wine and sangria. The restaurant recently invited Gapers Block for a visit.

To start, thinly sliced red beets and pineapple tossed with a heaping of mixed greens, whole charred green onions, blanched almonds and a light tamarind-sherry vinaigrette made for a jungle of flavors and textures which worked surprisingly well. Other cold tapas proved much tamer though not altogether unsatisfying. Thinly sliced and grilled zucchini and eggplant were most enjoyable without the forgettable romesco served on the side. Unfortunately, the assortment of olives over-dressed with lemon juice could not be similarly spared.

Hot tapas were hearty but swung the extremes of sweet and salty. Duck leg confit was dry and--with asparagus, sweet potatoes and a thick red wine fig reduction--cloying. Serrano ham-wrapped dates with almond centers tasted like candy; I could barely discern the pork. Tender oxtail was lost to a briny vegetable and navy bean soup.

One of the most satisfying dishes of our visit was the wild mushroom cazuela, despite overzealous squeeze-bottle zigzags of garlic aioli. Served warm, it was the exception to a meal riddled with temperature peculiarities. The dish also parlayed considerable (and welcome) heat from red chilies, of which the menu description provided no warning.

The most promise at Eivissa in terms of taste and value seems to lie with their pintxos. Snapper with creamy chipotle sauce and cured red onions on a thick, fried piece of ripe plantain proved decadently rich and smooth, which would not have been the case had the plantain been "crisp" as the menu described. Gorgeous, gamey cuts of braised lamb with a subtle mojo verde and grilled scallions atop toast were also a winning combination but would have been better had the meat arrived at our table warm rather than at room temperature.

We ended our meal with a chocolate crème brulée, the crowning misnomer of the evening. Though pleasant enough, this dessert was essentially chocolate pudding served in a shallow tapas dish.

The changes at Eivissa are certainly palpable but not without potential. With specials like $4 glasses of wine and $5 per person paella on a recent Tuesday night, the restaurant is trying to draw in traffic. It's a worthwhile stop. Eivissa is located at 1531 N. Wells St., 312-654-9500.

 
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Dutch / January 8, 2010 10:00 AM

I never understood Spanish restaurants in America. American's treat tapas like they're a meal. In Spain, tapas are bar food. Cheap, usually salty (to encourage drinking...duh), and simple. Fried shrimp, olives, anchovies etc. $6 for a bit of jamon serrrano? Please.

Capt America / January 11, 2010 9:46 AM

Would you prefer it if we called them something else besides Tapas? How about...Your country sucks!

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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