Restaurants & Bars


isla: hot, but could be hotter?


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isla: hot, but could be hotter?

yvonne johnson | | Oct 1, 2000 06:26 PM

Outside there was a quiet Manhattan street. Indoors, a din. Yet it was nice to be back at Isla! This is a dinky, funky, Cuban place that months after opening still has an exciting edge. This was my third visit, so I must’ve been going back for something. The terrific ceviche for sure. A platter for the table included scallops in coconut milk; shrimps with spicy marinade; tuna, and oysters. The ceviche was the highlight of the meal as it has been on both previous visits. That said, the yucca with spicy meat app was flavorsome too. My main course sounded appealing: cod with saffron potatoes. The result seemed a bit strained as the pots were overbearingly saffrony and the fish a little overcooked. But the bed of greens was buttery and the greens were better than those I’ve eaten at soul-food restaurants. The paella was plentiful in variety and quantity of seafood and the chicken with black beans and plantain made a good combination. Overall, the three of us thought the apps were brilliant, the mains more in the direction of lukewarm. I agree with Aaron (this board 2/27/00) that the food, the mains in particular, need a bit more umphf.

Cocktails continue to be a highpoint (especially the margarita with cayenne in lieu of salt). Service is quick and knowledgeable.

This is small place and people are packed together pretty tightly. But it does not really matter as you cannot have an intimate chat here anyway. The Latin music certainly booms. Even mid-week, Isla makes Mesa Grill on a week-end night sound like a haven of tranquility. At one point, though, I wish I had been able to hear our neighbors’ conversation. Four dead-ringers of the main characters in "Sex and the City" were seated at the next table. They could mimic with apparent ease the actors’ gestures, dress, looks, and way of interacting. I thought they might be following verbatim the script of the show too, but the din prevented testing this hypothesis! (I'm curious. Has anyone else has seen this quartet? Maybe I need to post this on the "not about food board" under sociological/ethnographic research while eating!) Continuing only a little bit more on the topic of real rather than imitation: I think Isla, itself, could be more real and daring. New York can, I think, take the heat.