Miami Nice

Latin glam trumps Seattle casual at new nightclub/restaurant Ibiza.

I've never been to the Oscars, but a recent Saturday night at Ibiza Dinner Club, the showy new Spanish restaurant/tapas bar/nightclub in Pioneer Square, gave me some sense of what a Hollywood gala might be like. Just after we entered, a petite young woman in a low-cut red dress strolled in on the arm of a large man in a coal-black suit. Valet-parked directly in front of the place was a massive black SUV—the couple's chariot, perhaps? The front lounge, with its tony couches, is separated from the bar by a metal-mesh veil; bar and dining room lie on either side of similar curtains. Even if you aren't convinced that owner Abi Eshagi, a veteran of the South Florida club scene, has brought a piece of Miami glam to the cold, gray Northwest, Ibiza certainly takes you somewhere other than Seattle. This "elsewhereness" carries through to the well-structured menu. Executive Chef Matthew Lederman has taken tried-and-true Spanish dishes and tousled their hair, producing tapas like tortilla espinaca ($4.50), a spinach version of the traditional omelet, finished with currants and pine nuts. The menu also lists seven platillos ("little dishes"), which are larger than tapas (and roughly double the price) but still a bit small to serve as entrées. Among the starters, several seafood platillos were standouts. Ibiza's ceviche clásico ($6.95), a dish commonly associated with Peru, was properly refreshing thanks to the generous dose of lime juice in which the raw snapper and shrimp had marinated. Also seasoned with mint and cilantro, the seafood's real virtue lay in its gorgeous texture: slightly chewy, wonderfully tender, a perfect vehicle for the intense citrus flavor. (For $8.50, Ibiza offers an alternative spin on ceviche: tuna, cucumber, mango, jicama, and cashews.) We were similarly enchanted with the fried squid ($6.95); it didn't need its sweet-spicy mojo picón (explained in the menu glossary as a "piquant Cuban-style sauce, with citrus and peppers"), since the light breading packed plenty of spice. Not much held our attention among the tapas, though the mushrooms al ajillo ($4.95), sautéed in "lots of olive oil" with garlic and peppers, gave the kind of simple pleasure that characterizes the best tapas: one or two ingredients, prepared without fuss and enjoyed for their natural flavor. The button and shiitake mushrooms were wonderful on their own; their sauce enlivened the unremarkable fried potatoes ($3.50) and fried peppers ($4.75), whose goat-cheese sauce defied the rule of tapas simplicity (the coarse salt that also topped them would have sufficed). My entrée of Chilean sea bass ($18.50) was similarly overdressed. "Seared in an olive crust" and topped with a sizable dab of light green parsley sauce, it looked like a tiny golf-course hole. The fish itself was light, sweet, terribly tender, and hardly in need of both toppings, especially since the saffron rice it came with was highly addictive. Better was my friends' rack of lamb with chimichurri ($18.50), a sauce of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs. Both praised the lamb's tenderness and the fact that its sauce and honey-date glaze didn't obscure the true flavor of the meat. Weirdly, this masterful entrée came with two sides more reminiscent of a Boca Raton senior center than trendy Miami: boring broccoli and cubed potatoes swimming in a wan, O'Brien-like sauce. Still, two less-than-stellar sides, two so-so tapas, and good fish too fussily prepared are hardly unsolvable problems. Confession time: As a certified frump, I'm unlikely to visit Ibiza regularly. (Nor do I expect to accompany Scarlett Johansson down the Kodak Theater's red carpet anytime soon.) Still, I recognize that the place is catnip to glamorous Seattleites. If you've always aspired to be one, maybe it's time to dust off that sleek, revealing Versace number or Hugo Boss suit and get down to the business of seeing and being seen. nschindler@seattleweekly.com Ibiza Dinner Club, 529 Second Ave., 206-381-9090, PIONEER SQUARE. Dinner 4 p.m.–2 a.m. Mon.–Sat. (full dinner menu until 1 a.m.).

 
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