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Review: Eivissa

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 18, 2009 6:00PM

When we walked into Eivissa, the Wells Street Art Festival was booming outside, the bar was four-deep with revelers and the giant front windows were opened onto the patio. The new Old Town tapas joint couldn’t have picked a better time to open, but we were more concerned with the food than the scene. We sheepishly begged for a seat in the back, and the hostess led us into a cool, cozy space, with giant wooden beams covering the ceiling. It evokes the feeling of a much older restaurant, the kind of hidden space that diners long to curl up in with a drink.

Eivissa, named for the local pronunciation of the island of Ibiza, is trying to revolutionize tapas in Chicago, and they succeed on many fronts. What really set Eivissa apart from the crowd are their cocktails, variety and prices. In addition to the sangrias, Eivissa’s cocktail menu is immense - more than 20 different cocktails were offered when we visited. All of the drinks looked appetizing, but we particularly loved the Sola, a combination of Gin, Pear Liqueur and cucumber. Their standard red sangria is infused with vanilla beans and Ceylon cinnamon for a warm, spicy taste.

Eivissa chef Dudley Nieto has crafted one of the more varied tapas menus in the city and attempts to combine traditional fare with more modern, molecular-gastronomy techniques. Many items have some sort of flavored foam, and a few even have sides of infused air. In addition to traditional favorites, Eivissa’s got some unique items, like an excellent grilled organic chicken with a caramelized pear and a port reduction ($7). We ordered some seafood - our excellent gambas al ajillo ($9) was the equal of any place in town and the grilled calamari with white beans ($9) was so good we wish we’d ordered two. In addition to Chorizo, their sausage sampler ($7) comes with blood sausage and a tasty Catalonian sausage - spicy and delicious! To be honest, most of the “foams” tasted like any other sauce or coulis, but they certainly didn’t detract from the dishes. Don’t waste your time with the Chupitos, or “Liquid Tapas” - shots of a flavorful sauce with a small piece of meat on a skewer. You’d be better off ordering another glass of sangria.

Our favorite part of the Eivissa experience? The exceptionally reasonable prices. None of their tapas costs more than $10, and they offer all of their entrĂ©es in two sizes, a small and a large. Even the sangria ($6), usually watered-down in a glass filled with fruit and ice, came in a huge stemless wine glass with just a few cubes of ice and 2 grapes. In a city where the $10 restaurant cocktail is becoming hard to find and the $14 drink isn’t unheard of, Eivissa’s highball drinks start at $8.

For a just-opened restaurant, Eivissa had great service, no food snafus and a packed house. With its location and prices, it’s sure to become a hit - make your reservations now.

Evissa is located at 1531 N Wells Street. Dress is casual, and valet parking is available.