The restaurant Isolé, meaning “isolated,” is well-named. Walking there from the Métro on a Saturday evening in winter is a spooky experience as your map app takes you on a roundabout route past housing projects and a series of darkened office buildings in the Paris suburb of Montreuil. Finally, you see some lights on an incongruous little two-story house with red shutters and a peaked roof tucked between the highrises. When you finally find your way in (the door is in the back, near the garden – the last thing you’d expect to see in this context), you discover a brightly lit restaurant with a bar, an open kitchen and multiple dining rooms, each individually decorated with different colors, light fixtures, furnishings and doodads, but lacking a bit in warmth and coziness.
My friend and I were relieved to find the place and a bit surprised to watch this restaurant in an unlikely location quickly fill up with customers. We soon discovered why, however: the pleasant welcome and the good food.
This is yet another restaurant offering sharable plates to be consumed in any order. My friend and I each started out with our own bowl of spider-crab soup with anise, a delight of a fish soup with crunchy croutons, perfect for that chilly evening.
We then shared the scallops cooked a la plancha and served with sorrel leaves, which added a nice acidic touch, and a rather bland cauliflower condiment. They were very tasty but not as brilliant as the blowtorched scallops we recently had at Coda in Paris.
Aside from the soup, our other favorite dish was the mushroom nems (fried spring rolls), filled with chanterelle and pied-de-mouton (sweet tooth) mushrooms cooked in poultry jus. Unusual and fabulous.
For a little meat protein, we shared the glazed beef ribs with lime and peanuts. For easy eating, the meat had been removed from the bone, which was presented naked on the side of the plate. The lime was the perfect complement to this rich, flavorful dish, while the peanuts added a welcome touch of crunchiness.
For dessert, I had the luscious brioche perdue, a fancy version of French toast, made with brioche, sweetened red-kuri-squash purée and sesame nougatine.
My friend, meanwhile, was joyfully relishing the more slimming “colonel du chef, mi-dessert, mi-digestif,” mint and lemon sorbet doused with iced vodka.
Isolé is not quite as isolated as I made it sound. Just a short walk away are the Montreuil town hall and two great theaters, the Cinéma Le Méliès and the Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil, probably the source of the diners on the evening we ate at the restaurant, which is surely packed at lunchtime with office workers grateful to find such good food amid the suburban concrete jungle.Favorite