Isa fired the entire kitchen staff early June and closed down for an entire week. It will reopen as a casual restaurant with wood fired oven grilled items, and a kid-friendly menu. So long weirdness, you were loved and will be missed. I shall revisit the new Isa once it opens to let everyone know the latest.
How often do our usual collection of words fail to describe a restaurant? I’ve grown quite tired of restaurants trying to brand themselves with keywords such as “fresh”, “local”, “organic”. These qualities are now viewed upon as the norm, not a selling point.
Try describing Isa, the first word that comes to mind would be different. Take a look at its website, and you’ll be probably be thinking weird.
That above was exactly how I came to know Isa. My colleague recommended it for being different, a trip to its website, literally is like a trip of the spiritual nature. Yet I came, and with that I have to tip my hat to the confidence of the team behind Isa.
When you arrive at the restaurant, you might be shocked by how normal everything is. The insanity of the website seems nowhere to be found….. until you’re handed the menu. This double sided, color print out looks like a practical joke that stuck around. It’s not the most practical menu, but it sure is very memorable. Luckily we came for the prix fixe, so it wasn’t too difficult to traverse the page. 3 courses, 2 options each, for $50.
I started the evening with “Inspector Spacetime”. With all the whimsical names, the drinks are remarkably serious and well made.
Now onto the food, which don’t have very fascinating names. The steak tartare was served in a flattened circle, with another circle of flax seeds nearby to add texture and flavor. This was one of the more unique steak tartares served in New York today.
The other appetizer, Fava Beans, doesn’t exactly look to appetizing on the menu. When we think of fava beans and mustard cress, the perceived tough texture doesn’t lend to delicate presentations. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised how the yogurt based “dressing” added depth and complexity to two greens that were not too exciting on its own. The egg yolk was pretty, but did little to the overall dish.
The same egg york made another appearance on the mains, next to the sable fish dish. Throughout dinner I saw a chef in the open kitchen place chunks of sable fish onto a grill, searing it quickly and flipping the fish with his bare hands. The careful preparation shows in how tender and juicy the fish is cooked. While the fish is cooked with simple seasoning, the accompanying ingredients give a dazzling array of flavors. I was especially fond of the flame charred cauliflower, and the dusting of black olives.
Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly top the sable fish, the “Duck” was every bit just as fantastic. Not only was the meat perfectly seared and incredibly tender and juicy, it was also served served next to a wonderful assortment of ingredients I had to look up on my iPhone. Knotweed, barigole, dates (okay I got this one), and Manzanilla olives. One of the best executed duck dishes I’ve ever had.
If you thought the mains were a bit too normal, yes, they were. The desserts will throw you off once again. Grapefruit “curd” looked like a long piece of flan, topped with matcha. It’s not a combination I would usually expect, combining bitter with bitter, but the flavor worked.
Next came more bitter. Celeriac, grilled, and topped with espresso with some flavors of burnt orange. Not my favorite dessert, for it barely resembled dessert, but flavor wise oddly it worked.
A strange meal, oddly delicious. Isa is food that’s fun and memorable at heart, but masterfully prepared.
What does this rating mean?
(The strange version)