La Vara vs Isa vs The Elm vs Glasserie
I know this is a hodge-podge of restaurants, but they were chosen based on being able to accommodate a party of 7 for dinner. It's a reunion dinner for old friends, some visiting from out of town. All diners are adventurous eaters, and 1 person needs non-spicy options. Can anyone speak to the quality of the food at Isa post Chef Mattos? On the basis of food quality alone, which restaurant would you choose? What about on the basis of value (quality/price ratio)? Lastly, what's the noise level of these places? I'd like a place where it's not too raucous, we have a lot of catching up to do!
Couldn't have picked three more different places. I have not been to The Elm yet but did eat at Corton when the chef was there. Sounds like the modernist deconstructed food has followed the chef from what I've read. La Vara is basically small plates, tapas style and there are few main course plates. The tab can run real high real fast based on the small plates. My wife and I have had $200+ meals here without getting too full. Food is very good. Not at all noisy. Isa is more traditional Italian in that you order starters, pastas, and mains. Good food again. Much noisier. Value is in the eyes of the beholder, but b/w La Vara and Isa, it will cost you less to walk out of Isa if you are a normal portion sized eater. More unusual dishes at La Vara though. Don't know Glasserie. I would suggest you also look at Atrium in Dumbo. Big space with several big tables and I thought the noise level wasn't bad for conversation.
I've only eaten at La Vara, of the restaurants listed, so I cant speak to direct comparisons. We really enjoyed our meal (for two) which included some excellent dishes (our dinner at La Vara was about a month and a half ago, and a solid amount of that month and a half was spent eating in San Francisco, yet i can still pretty faithfully recall details from the meal). They are walkable from us, which i think colors my view. it is a very nice neighborhood restaurant with interesting and very well executed food. the service was pretty polished in a casual/neighborhood way, but i did feel the bill of 175ish (including tax and tip, and with a not-cheap bottle of wine).
I will say that the portion sizes on the plates at La Vara were fair/moderate (im a big guy but dont need every plate to be overflowing) BUT the food was quite heavy and that our 5 dishes were a good solid meal, but did not leave us too full.
if you end up at La Vara with 7 people, you'll need at least 2 (probably 3) of the noodles with goat, goat butter, and sumac.