I found myself at Ibiza Food & Wine Bar – again.
I’m a sucker for a good wine list. Just love it when I’m handed a “library book” full of wines from which to choose. I’ve seen people become overwhelmed with so many choices, but for me it’s great reading. (I stopped reading for fun after law school so this sorta makes up for it, right?) I’m an even bigger sucker for places with a good wine list that’s not accompanied by a crazy markup. Now don’t get me wrong, I sometimes go to places with absurd markups and I just roll with it because I like the food and it’s a good dining experience. Bit Ibiza gives me fabulous food and a wonderful atmosphere – all without huge markups. No kidding. This is one of the closest to retail lists that I’ve found in Houston. And it’s extensive! I also like that they have some hard to find wines (like the quite elusive Kosta Browne Pinot Noir) and things that aren’t readily available for retail sale. When I’m in the mood for some wine tasting in Houston, sometimes I’ll seek out a true wine bar with limited food options where everything is all about the wine (and in my neighborhood), but other times I just head straight to Ibiza.
I just love the sophisticated, yet swanky, yet unpretentious feel of the place. They have a nice, cozy patio as well. And I’ve seen the place work for a couples meal as well as for groups.
I mean, how can you not like dining next to this beautiful wine wall?
And the food and service never disappoint. It truly is a wonderful, chef-driven menu. As the name implies, the cuisine is supposed to be Spanish/Mediterranean influenced. But there is also a great deal of Southern influence to the food as well as lots of local Gulf seafood. Chef Charles Clark grew up on the Louisiana coast so that explains a great deal about the Southern and Gulf seafood touches. Veal cheeks, Portuguese octopus, or Arkansas rabbit? They have it!
On this particular day, we were brought some complimentary Truffle Fries with Parmesean Snow to start. French fries with truffle oil? Hello! You can’t miss me with truffle anything! I already knew it was going to be a long night.
Next up was an amazing plate of Iberico ham, which is a cured ham produced in Spain. This was suggested by our waiter and it was delicious! I felt like I was eating a plate of bacon so what’s not to like?
Next up was the Grilled Shrimp with Crabmeat Cornbread and Tasso Cream. Yeah it’s a mouthful and boy was it fantastic!
It is REALLY rich and I was already starting to get full. This is one of my favorite things on the menu and highlights the Gulf seafood (the shrimp) and Southern Louisiana (tasso) influence. Just try it! It’s an awesome combination.
So then it was on to the Heirloom Tomato Salad after our three appetizers (hangs head in shame). The simple combination of tomato, blue cheese, red onion, and balsamic never disappoints and was the prefect palate cleanser before we moved on to our entrees.
For entrees, we “tried” (I say tried because I could only take a couple of bites) the Whole Fish Stuffed with Crab and an on-off menu bone-in ribeye. The week before, I’d gone to a birthday dinner at one of the City’s premium steak houses. This ribeye blew it away! The flavor and marbling and…it was just great.
And the fish was divine. Like truffles, I just go ga-ga over crab. Dosesn’t matter the type, cooking method, whatever. If it’s crab, I’m probably going to like it. And the fish was light and flaky and perfectly cooked.
And what did we pair with all this deliciousness? A beautiful, well balanced, wonderfully priced Pinot Noir. The 2012 Patz & Hall Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir was medium bodied, had good acidity, and had flavors of dark cherry. It was perfect with our varied assortment of dishes. It could stand up to the ribeye but also didn’t overwhelm some of the lighter dishes.
Now, I will have to say that this was the only area where there could have been some improvement in the whole dining experience. The bottle was not cellar temperature so I had them put it in an ice bath to bring the temperature down some. It’s great to have a beautiful wine wall to look at, but those bottles also need to be kept a tad bit cooler. An OK wine can become something special when served at the proper temperature. Do not drink warm red wine my friends – unless it’s mulled. In fact, I almost always ask to feel the bottle when it’s brought to the table to see how cool it is. So if you’re in town and looking to do some wine tasting in Houston, do yourself a favor and go have a delicious, creative meal along with some quite affordable wine. And then waddle on out.