Ten years after debuting in Hong Kong, the beloved Isola by Gaia Group received a full-blown facelift last October. I popped down to ifc with the mister recently for a romantic date night to see (and taste!) the transformation for ourselves.
After a warm greeting at the hostess station, we were led past the pristine, open kitchen where all the Isola magic happens. Gorgeous ingredients and featured products on display made my hunger increase tenfold in about fifty paces. Sometimes the noise and distraction of an open concept can leave me wishing things were behind closed doors, but the bustle is separate enough from the seating that it definitely works here.
Our table, along with many others in the restaurant, featured a full harbor view. On a warmer night, I would have opted for a seat on out on the patio, an even better perch, in my opinion. I can picture a day of shopping coming to a lovely close with a glass of chardonnay in that exact spot.
To my husband’s sheer delight, a hot bread basket arrived just a few minutes after we had settled in. We clinked our glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and toasted a night sans preschooler. The focaccia was gone before I could taste it, but it did inspire my husband to wax on about his plans to “really tackle bread-making this summer.” It must have been delicious.
For a starter, we ordered the warm vegetable salad upon a strong recommendation by a savvy diner. I was openly skeptical of the banana anchovy dressing, but it was worth the risk. Artfully plated, impeccably cooked baby carrots, zucchini and potatoes were drizzled with the surprising, salty sauce, and we ate every bite.
Our waiter also recommended the tuna and scallop tartare, well outside the realm of dishes I’d normally select. Clearly, I need to branch out more often, because the velvety seafood paired with green apple, Prosecco wine gelatin, and grated fresh horseradish? A whole new world!
The pasta course was the high and the low of the evening. Veal-filled ravioli with potato leek cream and black truffles had us swooning, truly wishing truffles were part of our everyday fare. But the homemade maltagliati pasta with mushrooms, sausages and marjorame were underwhelming. They just felt a little bit too safe.
By the time it came to ordering a main course, we had trouble making a choice. When the waiter suggested an off-the-menu Veal Milanese, he did not lead us astray! Perfectly cooked veal with crispy breading and a lemony arugula salad on top was a delicious way to round out the meal.
Dessert was a chocolate cake that didn’t feel quite fudgy enough, but the chocolate candies that arrived at the end made up for all that.
Our overall verdict? The décor is still very white, the crowd still chic and the food still flavourful and fresh – turns out, the restaurant remains quite rooted in what it has always done well. But in a city where consistent food can be hard to come by? We’re glad for reliable deliciousness. Isola, we’ll be seeing you again.
Isola, Shop 3071-3075, Level 3, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2383 8765