Summer in Ibiza in 2020 has been a little different to previous years, to say the least. It’s been short and yet it’s also been sweet – without the glitz and glam of the famous nightlife scene, our beaches, nature and gastronomy have really been given the chance to shine more than ever before. On the beautiful east coast, Chiringuito Blue has been at the forefront of Santa Eulalia’s gastronomic revival, paving the way for a long-overdue gentrification of the area long before any new regulations came into place. This season has been no different at the beautiful frontline beach restaurant, where master chef Haim Cohen presides over his kitchen like a leader of the culinary revolution, winning legions of loyal fans with his unique twist on Mediterranean cuisine.
While many of us can only dream of visiting the neighbouring Mediterranean shores of places like Italy, Greece, Israel, Turkey and France this year, Cohen’s own extensive travels and culinary experiences help to bring us just that little bit closer – in terms of taste, if not through travel. His carefully curated menu has been designed to take diners on a journey through the unique and diverse flavours of the Mediterranean, all from the comfort of your seafront table or daybed at Chiringuito Blue. All you have to do is order, take a bite and then close your eyes to be be transported to the Mediterranean destination of your dreams. That is, if Ibiza wasn’t a dream destination enough.
Hailing from Tel Aviv, Cohen grew up surrounded by the diversity of Israeli cuisine – where spicy, sweet and sour flavours can come together harmoniously, and where crunchy textures are complemented with silky smooth creamy sides (hello tahini!), and where the aromas of the cuisine are as heavenly as the tastes themselves. He felt a natural affinity with cooking from a young agea, and began his career working in one of Tel-Aviv’s best restaurants before going on to develop his own distinguished reputation as a chef, culminating in a role on television as a judge on the Israeli version of Master Chef. Almost 35 years after his culinary adventures began, Cohen landed in Ibiza. A place where he admits, he was not as well-known as his own country, and a place where he could truly make his mark with a new audience through his role at Chiringuito Blue, with clued-up island foodies who were open to new experiences, tastes and flavours.
Cohen describes the menu at Chiringuito Blue as uncomplicated, like his mother’s kitchen, yet full of rich flavour and vibrant freshness in every mouthful. If only all of our mothers could cook like that! Taking the many concepts he has tried and tasted throughout his trips across the Mediterranean, Cohen adapts them to both the Ibicencan palate and the tastes of Ibiza’s cosmopolitan travellers, and also to its landscape, as the restaurant collaborates with two local organic farms to grow exactly the right vegetables and herbs in abundance for his kitchen, working with as much of a farm-to-table concept as possible.
His homeland of Israel is evident in starters such as roasted eggplant served with tahini and pomegranate, and warmed chickpeas with grated tomato, turmeric and tahini – both simplistic by nature, but so satisfying and full of flavour. Shakshuka is one of the stars on the sharing menu – two sunny side up eggs in a slow-cooked tomato stew served with pita bread and more of that outrageously good tahini – alongside traditional Araies, a decadent Bedouin dish of charcoaled pita stuffed with lamb and handfuls of fresh herbs. Cohen marries ingredients from all over the Med in a way that is subtle, familiar and comforting – Chiringuito Blue prides itself on the highest quality cuisine, and yet it creates a sense of nostalgia, and a feeling of home.
Elsewhere on the Chiringuito Blue menu, the flavours of his newfound home, Ibiza and also mainland Spain, are evident in dishes such as Acorn-fed, hand-cut Iberican ‘Joselito’ jamon, croquettes made with the same ham (said to be the very finest!), Adalusian style crispy calamari and plenty of charcoal-grilled fresh fish and seafood, from sea bream with Ibicenco lemon and garlic confit to the mouthwateringly good new dover sole. Grilled octopus served with sweet potato and padron peppers is a nod to the classic pulpo Gallego, while jumbo Carabineros are served fresh as God intended. The whole charcoal grilled chicken is seriously impressive, made with more local lemons and fresh sage, and the Galician 35-day dry aged entrecôte is a carnivore’s dream. New to the menu in September is a bowl bursting with seasonal green veggies topped with fresh Ibiza figs (in season right now) and walnuts – stunning in its simplicity.
Cohen’s travels have also seen him take in the exotic flavours of the east, which appear in plates such as the white fish sashimi with tomato seed, lemon and olive oil. King crab with avocado and spicy Mayo has echoes of Singapore, but given an Ibiza twist, while the summer tomato salad with goat milk ricotta, basils and olives can instantly transport you to Greece on a hot summer day. Close your eyes and tuck into the lobster linguine with cherry tomato and basil and you’ll hop right over to Italy. No matter what dish you choose from the menu – and it’s not an easy choice to make given you’re spoilt for choice – one thing is for sure. Your taste buds will be taken on a world tour, even if your body remains firmly in its seat in Ibiza. Summer may be nearing its end, but there are still a few more weeks for you to sample as many of the flavours from the Chiringuito Blue menu as you can before winter sets in!