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The intergalactic kitten award: Isa

Comfort-food refugees Taavo Somer (Peels, Freemans) and Ignacio Mattos (Il Buco) could have coasted on the easy appeal of fried chicken and pasta when they...

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Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Isa wood fire oven carrots

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Photograph: Daniel Krieger

Steak tartare at Isa

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Photograph: Daniel Krieger

Cod pil-pil at Isa

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Photograph: Daniel Krieger

Isa

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Photograph: Daniel Krieger

Isa

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Photograph: Daniel Krieger

Isa

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Photograph: Daniel Krieger

Rib eye at Isa

Comfort-food refugees Taavo Somer (Peels, Freemans) and Ignacio Mattos (Il Buco) could have coasted on the easy appeal of fried chicken and pasta when they joined forces for Isa. Instead, they bucked the trends they helped create and busted out this bizarro venture—an acid trip of a restaurant that won us over even as we scratched our heads in befuddlement. There was a falling-down-the-rabbit-hole sense of excitement to entering the woodsy cabin and encountering its strange hand-scribbled menus, daubed in psychedelic colors and rife with oddball ingredients. Things got weirder once the food arrived: Eccentric flavor combinations like steak tartare with toasted flaxseeds and shaved-sunchoke puree and crème fraîche, or rich slices of duck made new with seaweed powder and creamy cauliflower puree. Mattos seemed to have beamed in these creations from the outer cosmos—as trippy as a kitten in a space suit, yet delicious and refined enough to earn him a place among the city’s most serious practitioners of haute cuisine. 348 Wythe Ave at South 2nd St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-689-3594, isa.gg/isa)

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