Dining at isa (supposed to be lowercase) was by far my most pleasurable experience in Portland so far. It's located in the challenged Bayside neighborhood which brings me back to NYC. It's not about the location but the ray of sunshine their food brings to the neighborhood. Having met in Brooklyn NY, the owners, Isaul and Suzie decided to bring their prowess and vision to Portland Maine, how appropriate! Isaul is classical trained in French and Italian cooking, that alone is a recipe for success. This is the exactly the type of restaurant you would find in an up and coming Brooklyn neighborhood. They do take reservations for parties of 6 or more ONLY and I suggest making one because they start to fill up around 6:30.
Upon entering you'll find simple, classic decor that stays true to the character and charm of the original building. The colors are warm and layered lighting compliments the lengthy bar and dining area. On the wall by the door they display the purveyors that supply the restaurant with it's fine ingredients, I love that. This practice really connects the diner to the dining experience and I've noticed this trend throughout Portland. There were many sophisticates sitting around sipping wine and sharing a laugh, very cool crowd and atmosphere without being ostentatious. The staff is friendly and look like they take their job very seriously, a sort of calm, reserved look is the best way to describe it. Our server was Joshua and he displayed great energy as he told us about the specials and took drink orders.
Since we are Pescetarian my reviews will unfortunately, be limited. I can tell you what I heard from other guests over my shoulder though. I ordered the shaved fennel salad with grapefruit, pecorino, and mint. Mint is like lemon for me; I like it occasionally, depends on the dish. The presentation is beautiful and when I took the first bite, WOW! The mint is so robust and compliments the other ingredients so well. My experience went like this, bite, "wow is that the mint?", mmm mmm, bite, "whoa that is the mint", absolutely incredible! The pecorino and grapefruit add textural contrast from the crunch of the fennel along with a touch of acid. My fiancé had the burrata crostini which arrived with a delicate layer of Heirloom tomatoes and vibrant fresh basil. If you have never had Burrata and love cheese, then you must try it. Burrata is made from Mozzarella and cream, done right, it should be creamy yet still hold together.
We both ordered the eggplant lasagne which is the farthest thing from your local pizzeria. This is fine dining quality my friends. If you don't know how to prepare eggplant it can be bitter, mostly due to the seeds, just like a tomato. The layers of homemade pasta, sauce, ricotta, and tarragon in this dish are perfectly balanced, making each bite more enjoyable then the next. You will find yourself eating it quickly and thinking that you eat this every day, we did!
For dessert we shared the warm apple tart which was good but I wished there was a little more crust to balance the amount of apple. It was still excellent, I'm just a picky boy.
We will be back to this restaurant often and look forward to trying other seasonal dishes. Thank you for a delicious experience!
HOURS Sun–Th 11-9:30 Fr-Sat 11–10:00 Tues Closed
LOCATION 79 Portland St. Portland, ME 04101
CONTACT 207 808 8533 email@example.com www.isaportlandme.com