As soon as you cross the threshold of Gaudi Tapas & Wine, past the sandy white stone facade, Meditteranean blue trim, and mosaic details on the walls, your passport has been stamped; you have officially been transported to Spain.
I’ve now eaten the delicious bites of owners Noemi and Saray Ruiz at Gaudi four times. The first bite was at the Governor’s Inauguration in January, a deeply rich and tasty hanger steak, Las Ramblas. From that bite I was set on going to the restaurant and giving it a real go. When I finally got there, the only thing missing was a flamenco performance, which came on my next visit! Everything, cooked low and slow, was full of flavor, and set the stage for future visits where I could try even more of the impressive menu.
I sat at my table and swayed to my old pals The Gypsy Kings (ok, they weren’t pals but certainly part of the soundtrack of my early 20s) who played over head. The aromas from the kitchen floated out to the main room and I tried to think of Europe and how you’d easily wait an hour, if not longer, for good quality food. I didn’t wait nearly that long, but I drooled as if I hadn’t eaten in my life.
The Ruiz sisters hit gold when Saray found the little spot where her dream took hold, however, she practically stared at the location for four years, before it was available and ready to take shape and become their very own. Needless to say, you take the passion of two sisters--twins no less--and magic on the plate, and what do you get? Well, eh hem, as of October 2, you get a statewide nomination for Best Restaurant Newcomer of the Year.
So back at my table, in no time, because I couldn’t choose, Saray brought me two drinks. Really? Well, the purist in me needed a Sangria, so I had one; the wacky wild side had to try a drink that seemed so I odd I couldn’t help it: a Clarita Molecular: San Miguel Beer with Lemon Nitrogen Foam. (wtf!?) I sipped and sipped it throughout my meal. It was refreshing and unexpected in the best ways.
At that first visit, I was astonished by so many great bites, but here are my top choices. From the Cocos and Toast menu: my favorite was the goat cheese and fig toast and the foie gras toast with caramelized apple; From the Croquestas menu: the Bacalao (codfish) croquetas; From the Tapas menu: the Huevos. A quail egg with truffle and black caviar. For both delicious and beautiful, the Pulpo a la Gallega takes the win. The octopus was so tender and smoky and served on a black slate with a striking blue flower. I almost didn’t want to touch it. But, oh did I.
And, of course, that was not all. The entire meal was a dress rehearsal for the paella. And yet, even before that masterpiece was brought to the table, complete in its own cast iron pan, shellfish, and dreamy aroma, I had a tiny dip into the rich, sharp bite of PERFECTLY cooked filet mignon in a poached onion and Roquefort sauce; an oozy yummi-ness I might I have licked endlessly if I wasn’t already so full.
My my next visit, we were all pals, and the local flamenco dancer and teacher, Sandra Hernandez was right there at my table; I became transfixed by her feet, remembering my old days, albeit short-lived, as a flamenco dance student (no joke) during my time in New York City. I fell in love with the fierce and feminine power of the genre, and so, there I was at Gaudi, enjoying great food, flamenco, and the intimacy of a wonderful new restaurant. Heaven, basically. On this visit, I had the Gambas al Ajillo and the Garbanzos Verde. The shrimp was so hearty and drenched in a smooth white wine and garlic sauce; and I had never had garbanzos so warm and tender and full of flavor. And for a sweet finish, I tried a bacon-wrapped date bite that was...well, love on a stick.
My experience at Gaudi, would not be complete without trying their Sunday brunch. So a neighbor came to join me during my birthday weekend recently, and we had their three-course Brunch; It was lighter than my previous experiences, but not short on flavor. We said cheers with a Coconut Mojito and Peach Sangria, and shared an herb and potato soup; a garbanzo plate, that sat in a full-bodied wine and clam sauce; and a smokey spanish omelette with veggies; all finished with dessert trio of Milk Foam French Toast, Passion Fruit Sauce over Chocolate Toast, and Crema Catalana, which is like a brulee, yet Saray insists, “Ours from Spain came first!”
Saray and Noemi Ruiz are from Lleida, Catalonia, in Spain, where everything was better around the table with food made by the hands of their grandmother. Her spirit has lived on and inspires many of the recipes we get to enjoy at Gaudi. The sisters were eager to share their world in what to some might be an unlikely place, a little corner of New England (oh, and across the street from the Danbury prison).
They have done it, they are doing it, and diners who go will be ready to return before they even finish their first meal.
Gaudi Tapas & Wine
52 ½ Pembroke Road
Danbury (near New Fairfield border)