Warm neighborhood spot w/ roof garden
A pricey ($30-60) mediterranean restaurant with organic meat options in (@ S. 2nd St.) (Williamsburg - South Side) with critics pick, brunch, date night, & organic meat offerings.
Mon-Fri: 12pm-4pm, 6pm-11:30pm Sat: 11am-3:30pm, 6pm-11:30pm Sun: 11am-3:30pm, 6pm-10pm
Isa is terribly alluring. Perhaps it’s the layout; a paneled wall opens up to Wythe Avenue, exposing a communal table and open kitchen beyond. To the right, a bar—as beautiful and wooden as the rest of the space—anchors the back dining room. Or perhaps it’s the decor. Isa manages rustic without becoming another country-chic cliché. Here, triangles rule, fusing into diamonds on the door and hexagonal lights. Wooden beams in triangular patterns on the ceiling and the wall hold the oven’s firewood.
The wood-fired oven is central to the restaurant’s menu, which owner Taavo Somer (Freeman’s, Peels) has shifted from the odd (fried sardine skeletons) to the familiar: Mediterranean plates like pizza margherita and wood-fired chicken. In some cases, the familiar was boring: pork and lamb meatballs with mozzarella—both chewy—sat in a lackluster marinara sauce. In others, it was just novel enough, as in beets surrounded by their smoky bitter greens and a tangy yogurt sauce.
What really makes the food at Isa 2.0 stand out, though, is the fire. Don’t go here if you have an aversion to grill marks. But if charring thrills you, look for it on the grilled skirt steak, one of the city’s best. Sliced on a wooden board, it was blackened, juicy satisfaction. The oven-roasted porgy was likewise crispy, simple and generous. Served whole with a nothing but a lemon, this was the kind of large, fresh and honest seafood one rarely finds outside the Mediterranean. Warm vegetable sides including eggplant, ember-cooked to melty softness and hot with chili flakes, round out the a la carte options. Soon, some of those sides will come from upstairs, where a small patio garden is in the works.
Isa may have left its stranger days behind, but with its trifecta of custom angles, grill and oven, it’s far from ordinary.