Isla


"No!" he said. "Do not give me anything else from your plate!"

And this despite the fact that we've been married for a very, very, very, (did I say very?) long time.

But I digress.

The subject of such petulant posturing? Well, let's just say that the seafood enchiladas ($19) I was served at Isla were ... well, rather seafoody. As in fishy. As in way too fishy.

And this despite the fact that they were really, really spicy, too.

What was afoot here? I knew (remember I've said that this dream job of mine does have an occasional downside) that I had to figure that out, so I kept tasting, and started dissecting.

The crabmeat? No. While it was confined to fine shreds, it was pretty decent crab.

The rock shrimp? No. It was overcooked, true enough -- particularly firm (read: rubbery) even for rock shrimp, which has a texture (and sometimes flavor, though not in this case) more akin to lobster -- but it wasn't fishy.

Ah, the snapper.

And what was the snapper? Beats me; that can be kind of a catchall term, akin to Chilean sea bass, which is used to identify way more than Patagonian toothfish. For all I knew this might've been bluefish, and not particularly fresh bluefish at that.

You know the rule of thumb that, in most cases, truly fresh fish should neither smell nor taste fishy? Yeah, that wasn't the case here. And the sauce used in the enchiladas (which was billed as "roasted tomatillo cream sauce," but was a deep reddish-brown) was so spicy -- spicier, even, than the "spicy" salsa of the trio we were served -- that it still managed to overpower the enchiladas. So I picked at the crab, picked at the rock shrimp, picked at the pool of refried black beans that was, oddly, under the enchiladas, and the rice that was served in a bowl. Because those enchiladas were much less than the sum of their parts.

And this was all quite surprising, because everything else we had at Isla was very good.

And that extended back to those salsas, which were brought out (along with tall glasses of ice water) soon after we were seated. The chips were better than you'd think chips could be -- clearly made from homemade tortillas so they were thicker than the factory style, but still nice and crisp, and with more corn flavor. The salsas were good, too -- a pico de gallo that was the crispy, chunky salsa cruda it should be, and with a nice kick; an even kickier, thinner salsa with a nice smoky undertone; and a green salsa that seemed to taste of tomatillos but also had hints of smoked chiles.

With them we had a starter of Queso Fundido ($8) that came with tortillas, which we used, but which we really wanted to eat with our chips, which we did as well. It was a nice mellow rendition, not particularly greasy, and it solidified as it cooled, but that's one of the things that just goes along with Queso Fundido.

Props also for our other entree. Roast Pork Pipian ($20) was juicy and tender, with earthy flavors lent by a tamarind marinade and pumpkin-seed sauce, and served with a roasted-corn puree that wasn't overly puree and really tasted of roasted corn. Beans and rice with this one, too, but both in a bowl.

Sweet roasted corn soup ($7) was perfect -- again, just thin enough, but with just enough texture that we could really enjoy the lightly caramelized flavor of the roasted corn. It was drizzled with a huitlacoche vinaigrette -- huitlacoche being corn fungus, and possessed of the same sort of subtle earthiness as mushrooms -- and we were a little nervous that the "vinaigrette" part of that would be too assertive, but that wasn't the case. A crisp-fried minitortilla topped it.

Corn came to us again in a sweet little corn cake that served as a base for our well-executed flan ($7).

So the kitchen at Isla clearly is skilled in the use of corn, which we would expect from any self-respecting Mexican restaurant, which Isla most assuredly is.

But I'd advise staying away from the seafood.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.

 

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