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Isa Restaurant – San Francisco, California

Isa Restaurant
3324 Steiner St.
San Francisco CA 94123
www.isarestaurant.com

I am one lucky gal. My boyfriend actually forwarded me San Francisco Restaurant Week and insisted I chose a place for our anniversary date. I chose Isa Restaurant based on its popularity and wide range of choices on its 4-course prix fixe menu ($40 each). The restaurant is located in the northern part of San Francisco, a little more than an hour from where I live. Parking was available in garages nearby. There was street parking, but I did not want to risk it due to the heavy traffic in the area. We arrived earlier than our 6:30pm reservation so we walked around the neighborhood to window shop at some boutique stores and check out other restaurants in the area. I want to try Saiwalks (Vietnamese Street Food) restaurant that’s right next door to Isa. We arrived a couple minutes early for our reservation but they had no problem seating us right away. It is a very packed and crowded restaurant with a small dining area in the front, kind of like a bar area, and then a larger tented area in the back that reminded me of a cabin.

20150125_190859_LLS 20150125_190824_LLSThe atmosphere was not at all romantic, but rather rowdy and loud. It reminded me more of a night market rather than a restaurant with all the yelling. A very laid back environment to say the least. The servers were highly attentive and greeted us with water and bread upon being seated, carefully explaining the menu to us and the happy hour drink specials. Happy hour included $5 soju cocktails before 7pm. Throughout the night, my boyfriend and I tried the mojito, the Number Seven, and a grapefruit cocktail. None of them really stood out to me flavor wise, I mostly just tasted strong alcohol in all of them.

20150125_183438_LLS 20150125_191416_LLSFirst course – Arugula salad with fuji apples, mandarins, fennel, lemon vinaigrette, and parmesan; Smooth Potato Leek soup with parsley, chives, and cream.

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The salad was light and basic in terms of flavors, but it was refreshing and I enjoyed the citrus notes from the mandarins and vinaigrette.

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I did not care for this soup, it came out boiling hot and did not taste like anything. Nothing special about this and I do not recommend getting it.

Second course – Yellowfin tuna with spicy sriracha, seaweed salad, avocado, and nori; Steamed Prince Edward Island mussels with garlic, jalapenos, tomato confit, shallots, and grilled bread.

20150125_183914_LLSThe tuna was fresh and melt-in-your-mouth delicious! I always enjoy fresh fish so this was a plus for me. The avocado enhanced the creamy texture from the fish and the seaweed salad added the crunch that I love so much.

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I was also impressed by the mussels. They all came out so wonderfully seasoned and plump, I could not stop eating them. The portion was hefty and the hints of jalapenos throughout the dish gave it a little kick that kept me coming back for more. I loved this dish.

Third course – Maple leaf farm duck breast with beets, goat cheese, arugula, huckleberry sauce; grilled golden gate natural angus flat iron steak with zucchini, blue cheese butter, peppercorn sauce.

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Both these dishes came out a perfect medium rare and tasted amazing. The duck had a crispy skin and the meat was very succulent. I enjoyed the huckleberry sauce that added a hint of sweetness to the duck. The steak was also wonderful, so soft yet still kept its integrity and bite. I did not care for the blue cheese butter too much though.  Vegetables were grilled to perfection and they tasted fresh with a crunch to them.

Fourth course – Semifreddo all’amaretto (gelato) & Vanilla bean crème brûlée

20150125_194138_LLS20150125_194148_LLSJudging from their looks, these two desserts seem boring and traditional. But rest assured, they were the best part of my meal. The crème brûlée was perfection, creamy with vanilla bean seeds running through it, and that crunchy sugar topping that brought it all together. The gelato was unexpectedly amazing. I was expecting something more creamy, but it was delightfully airy, light, and more on the icy side. Those bite-sized cookies were crispy puffs of heaven that played on the iciness of the dessert itself. These desserts prove that sometimes traditional and basic is the best.

Overall, I enjoyed this dining experience and the celebration of another anniversary with my love. However, I did not enjoy the loud atmosphere too much, nor how quickly the food was served. We felt a little rushed throughout dinner because the courses were served so close to each other. We were only in the restaurant for about 90 minutes in total. I would recommend this place for more of a happy hour get together than a romantic date, and to definitely try their desserts. They are traditional but truly amazing.

~Nicole

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