Isa in the Marina?
My search yielded nothing more recent than 2005. Is that a sign in itself? Comments from that time appeared to be that food was pretty good, maybe lacked a little value, and that service was pretty bad.
Anything more recent?
Went to Isa about a month ago after remembering the name mentioned on Chowhound and trying to avoid an insane wait at A16 while in the Marina. It seems like they were directing everyone to the bar to order drinks first even though there were something like 15 open tables in plain view.
My boyfriend and I are by no means very knowledgeable about wine, but we both ordered two different wines by the glass and they tasted EXACTLY the same as if they were poured from the same (not very good) bottle. Service was terrible - hostess up front didn't care about anything, excruciatingly slow to get drinks and the bar tab.
After wasting away about 45 minutes there with still plenty of open tables but everyone waiting at the bar, we decided to listen to the warning signs and headed back to A16 where we waited a bit longer and had a lovely time. I can't vouch for Isa's food since we didn't get to try it, but I will probably never go back.
Isa is one of those restaurants that seems to do good business but I don't know anyone who has ever eaten there (except one person who said he had a good, not great, meal). I live 6 blocks away but I've never had any desire to go. For small plates in the area, go to Terzo, imo.
I've had one excellent meal and one good meal at Isa. The excellent one was maybe 2 years ago... one of the best quails I've ever eaten (how good? Had a similar preparation at Gary Danko that left me totally disappointed because it wasn't as good as the one at Isa), and loved the potato crusted cod (fried in brown butter, scattered with capers). Everything else that night was excellent too, but those were the two standouts.
Last time I ate there was in December - this time the cod was a little overcooked, and I can't remember the rest of the dishes, but I did have an overall good impression of the meal. Very good service both times.
I asked about Isa because a friend had made reservations for us for Friday night. We arrived at 8:55 for our 9:00 reservation to find the place PACKED. People were standing inside the door like sardines. We waited for 10 minutes with NO acknowledgement from any staff member. A server came to deliver food at the bar area and we asked about the MIA hostess as many patrons had not checked in yet. He said that she would be right back. A sum total of fifteen minutes passed before the hostess arrived. How is this possible or acceptable during the height of the dinner hour? The hostess then checked in all the parties and we were told they were running about 15 minutes behind... of course they were 15 minutes behind at the moment we spoke to her. She also offered no apology for her absence or the delay. We waited for about five more minutes and sized up the situation and we all agreed that there was no way we were going to get a table in 15 minutes or anytime soon. We left, another group left, and we will never even attempt another visit.
I've eaten at Isa twice, most recently about a year ago. I ate early (6-ish), had no problems with service, and still remember the duck with creamy polenta and generous serving of grapefruit granita. Prices seemed reasonable to me considering the location and quality of the food. It's not a destination restaurant, but I consider it one of the best choices in the area.
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience - I am a long-time fan of Isa and have been there many, many times. I love the chicken, the polenta and the grapefruit granita! I've always had excellent service there, perhaps because I've been so many times. I do remember acting as the hostess myself one night, when the real hostess was AWOL and people were streaming in for a party in the back room. It's not like I couldn't point them in the right direction! I haven't been there in a few months, though and I sincerely hope that I won't be disappointed as I will have a bday celebration there. Interesting that some prefer Terzo, I've never found much on the menu there that I like. But I guess that's what makes the world go around!