By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela
By Lauren Saria and Heather Hoch
By Deborah Sussman
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch
Call it a Spanish invasion. At the same time Bistro Madrid (see review in this issue) opened in Ahwatukee this spring, Ibiza Café threw open its doors within rock-tossing distance of the canal at Scottsdale and Camelback. Named after an island off Spain's coast, the restaurant isn't all authentic Spanish -- its offerings hopscotch across the continent with dishes from France, Italy, even Morocco and Tunisia. But in a town strapped for European exotica, I'll take any type of tapas I can get.
Better yet: While tiny tapas plates can be expensive ($8 to $10 for an appetizer plate is pretty common), Ibiza offers irresistible temptation, with $5 plates and 2-for-1 sangrias at happy hour (4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday). A handsome, sleek setting with local art for sale and a dynamite mix of contemporary music makes the event all the more electric.
Sometimes my brain short-circuits (even before sangria). With so much food knowledge swirling in such a tiny space, I forget that, in Spain, "tortilla" means omelet. So I have to scramble to look cool in front of my happy-hour pal when our plate arrives layered with soft potato slices, onion, egg gratin, manchego cheese, salty prosciutto, tomato and olives, instead of a cheese crisp-type thing. Terrific stuff cut in four plump slices, sort of like frittatas in costume jewelry.
There's no confusion over calamari and shrimp, though: pristine critters grilled and tossed in a creamy cloak of garlic, tomato, herbs and lemon over greens with a side of grilled toast. And this is a real meal: A tasting of Mediterranean canapés brings a dozen petite crisp breads individually topped with olive tapenade, sun-dried tomato goat cheese, eggplant caponata and roasted garlic-lentil spread.
This next one isn't technically a tapa, but get it, get it, get it. Lunch, happy hour, dinner . . . just get it. It's roasted red bell pepper soup, a tart-tangy taste of sweet earth liquid served steaming hot and swirled with a pretty flower design in corn purée. I find myself drawn in for lunch days in a row, spooning the jewel with the field green salad that's included with a lunch order. Peppery lettuces are spiked with tomato and red onion, dressed in vibrant vinaigrette and, when I plead with my server, she brings soft bread so I can sop up the last drops of soup and dressing. One gluttonous time, I add an order of Tunisian boreks, an arresting presentation of lacy, flaky phyllo cigars stuffed with minced chicken and lots of gutsy rosemary, and dunked in a full-bodied lemon aioli capped with whole capers.
Just try to tapas that.