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In a state of hibernation. My backlog has long become unsustainable. Will probably tweet more and write less full-length stuff.

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Wednesday
Jul272005

Isa

isa.jpg

After reading this review by Amy, I was inspired again to go check out Isa. I've been there 3 or 4 times before, but not for a couple of years. It was always good - in particular, I remember a potato-leek soup with sea scallops that was out of this world. From that point on, I realized the kitchen was very good at soups, and ordered whatever was on the menu each time I went. I've never been disappointed. Anyway, flash forward to 2005. I tried the spinoff Lüx last year, and it was alright but not great. A week or two ago I made a trip back to Isa with my mom and Bart. It turns out the restaurant has doubled in size and completely renovated, having taken over the nail salon (I think) that used to be next to it. The place is much wider now, with a decent sized bar and a lot more tables. Isa is a small shared plates restaurant, so here come a lot of pictures...

butter lettuce salad with bartlett pears, roquefort & candied walnuts - $8.5 This simple salad was well-executed and refreshing. The sweet, ripe pears went very well with the fairly mild roquefort. A good start to the meal.

lobster broth with tiger prawns & fresh tarragon - $7

smooth corn soup with fresh herbs & roasted corn garnish - $6 The soups now come in portions for either one or two (for a couple of dollars more). We wanted to try both soups, so instead we just got one serving of each, with the lobster split into two for me and Bart. I'm glad to report the kitchen has not lost its deft touch with soup, as both of these were just fantastic. The lobster soup was smoky and flavorful, with generous servings of big, plump prawns, and delicious croutons. The corn soup was equally good with chunks of super sweet kernels and a hearty broth. Also, both were piping hot. I think I may start coming to Isa for lunch and just having some nice soup!

sauteed pea shoots with garlic - $6 The biggest misstep of the night were these pea shoots (or in Chinese, dou miao). I guess they're catering to an audience that isn't too familiar with the real thing - you get damn good pea shoots in Hong Kong. These pea shoots aren't even worth putting on the menu, if you ask me.

potato wrapped seabass with brown buter, capers, lemon & parsley - $15 Pretty good seabass. It looked dry at first, but that was probably cuz of the potato crust. The inside was juicy and tender, and the brown butter sauce was nice, though a bit too salty and intense.

seared foie gras with white peaches & a custard brioche - $16 Along with the soups, the best dish of the night. This was a very nice, smooth, rich piece of foie, and the picture doesn't show how generous the serving was. It was definitely the biggest seared foie gras I've seen in a while. The peaches were sweet, but not too sweet, and we actually ate them all. The brioche sopped up all the juices nicely.

seared duck breast with balsamic onions, potato rosti & wild huckleberry sauce - $17 A nice juicy duck breast, rosy and rare in the middle. Bart, who claims he doesn't eat duck much, liked this a lot. The potatoes were just glorified hash browns, but at least they were very good hash browns (and I love the stuff). The onions were crisp with just the slightest balsamic flavor - quite refreshing.

tortiglioni pasta with crushed black truffles, tomato, basil & parmesan reggiano - $11 Finally, a nice and simple pasta. It had plenty of truffle scent but not a ton of taste. Still, I really loved this dish - a very light tomato/basil sauce with a heavy dose of tasty parmigiano. The pasta was perfectly al dente.

passion fruit soup with mango - $6 As you can see, this chilled soup had a beautiful, bright color. It tasted intensely tropical, quite sweet and quite sour (though not too much of either). Tons of little mango chunks are hidden at the bottom. It was sort of like a really concentrated juice. Very refreshing.

semifreddo agli amaretti - $5 This serving was big! The semifreddo was like a very rich ice cream with a strong nutty flavor. I liked this a lot but we were too full to finish. I think Isa is actually even better than it was before. The crowds seem to have died down a bit - back in the day, it was tough to get a table. Now they've expanded and seem to be trying to pimp Lux pretty hard. The food at Isa is better if you ask me. Get the soup!

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Reader Comments (3)

Arthur,What a fabulous meal! Those soups sound absolutely incredible. For some reason I forget about soups in the Summer, but this is definite inspiration to make a seafood bisque. The foie gras sounds amazing. Mmm!
Thursday, July 28, 2005 at 7:22AM | Unregistered Commentermegwoo
I gotta try the soups AND the desserts! I completely agree about the pasta, simple yet somehow divine.
Friday, July 29, 2005 at 11:18AM | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Indeed, I can't stress enough how much I like the soups here. Definitely worth going back for!
Friday, July 29, 2005 at 10:03PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Che

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