Last night, I went to Isa with a friend for the San Pellegrino Dine Out promotion. It was my first time eating there. Some might say that I missed out on a good thing by doing the promo (which has a set menu); I say that I'm poor and that promos like this help a girl like me eat nice meals at nice restaurants. Mind you, I looked at the set menus quite a bit before I chose a restaurant. Some of the restaurants featured were phoning it in, so to speak, but I didn't feel that Isa was, and I believe I was right. Also, they feature local and sustainable products, which is always a philosophy I can get behind. : )
At first glance, or step in the door, Isa looks tiny. Teeny-tiny. Like a restaurant made out of a closet tiny. It's pretty, though- there's a spiffy bar along the right side and some swanky tables to the left. And just as you wonder where they're going to seat you, they take you to the back, to this lovely tented area with strung lights and greenery and decking. It's like traveling through a dark and damp cave and then emerging into a giant cavern with stalactites and stalagmites. It's so unexpected and very pretty. You ended up a little squished in, but that's okay. How many restaurants in San Francisco really have enough room to dine comfortably? I'm not sure if the tent rolls back to reveal the sky, but if it does, it would be lovely. I can't imagine many more wonderful places to be than that deck on a warm, sunny winter day in the city.
On to the food. My friend started with a sea bass crudo with mango, cilantro and chili. It was delicious. The sea bass was tender and flavorful and paired wonderfully with the sweet, smooth mango and the kick of chili. It was a perfect dish for a warm summer night. I, on the other hand, started with baked goat cheese with basil, pine nuts and a tomato concasse. It was warm (obviously), creamy and crunchy, with a hint of bite from the tomatoes. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.
For the second dish, my friend chose the halibut a la plancha with artichokes, capers and olives. The halibut was very moist and tender and we lapped up the sauce with bread. Again, a nice light fish dish for a warm summer night. I, however, chose the risotto with assorted mushrooms and parmesan for my second course. Nice and heavy. Let me just say here that I love mushrooms. Real love. True blue, like Madonna. You would think I would love this dish because of that, but the mushroom flavor wasn't prevalent. It was cooked well, though- creamy and smooth with a nice texture.
Last, but not least, we had a vanilla creme brulee and flourless chocolate cake for dessert. The cake had a hint of orange and seemed so light and fluffy that it seemed like flour was involved. However, as you can see from the Adventures in Baking series, I am no baker. The vanilla ice cream accompaniment was quite tasty, too, but there were some chocolate bits under the ice cream that had frozen to the plate and were extremely difficult to remove for that bit of crunch the dish needed. As for the creme brulee, the sugar crust was a little thick, but it had an interesting floral-vanilla flavor to it that I enjoyed.
So that's Isa. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars or hearts or horsehoes or something. I would love to try more of the menu and can't wait to go back again!
p.s.- we washed down the dinner with a bottle of 2004(?) Faiveley White Burgundy. It was good. It had some oak, but mostly it was bright fruit and minerals. It was an excellent counterpoint and accompaniment to our dishes.