festivals and events
raves and reviews
the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
Manhattan-based restaurateur Taavo Somer set across the river to open his first solo venture, Isa (meaning “father” in Estonian) in Williamsburg. The gorgeous space feels like an airy, modern barn with a large hearth, exposed kitchen, a wall of logs for the wood-burning stove and doors opening to the street. In a style called “primitive modernism,” chef Ignacio Mattos (formerly of Il Buco) executes rustic, seasonal fare with produce hailing from the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
The printed daily menu only featured about a dozen dishes (the eatery was still in its soft-launch phase) with minimal descriptions, yet no detail seemed overlooked. Even the trio of freshly baked bread came alongside soft butter dusted with peppercorns and fennel seeds. A start of peppery horseradish shavings awakened our palate and added sharpness to coins of pickled daikon and kombu ribbons, while our Treviso salad tossed with creamy nut cheese and pistachio granola was a much milder appetizer. Adventurous eaters can get their hands dirty with cylinders of chewy, fat-laden pig’s tail glazed with chili and garlic (intended to be eaten sans silverware) or try to brave the sardine. Two large, meaty filets sitting in olive oil surround the fish’s crisped full skeleton and head—all meant for nibbling. On the refined side, our delicate cod filet performed beautifully when accompanied with silken cauliflower puree, fresh dill flowers and a dollop of tart orange confit. To finish, we blissfully spooned smoked yolk (which came cradled in an egg shell) over sliced rib eye and sweet glazed carrots.
At the time, Isa was BYO (waiting for their liquor license) and cash only, but the knowledgable staff affirmed that change was on the horizon. The vibe here is approachable and friendly, a warm neighborhood spot that I look forward to cozying up to again.