What is eggs Benedict?
How many Upper West Side Reviews of Isabella "popular yuppie hangouts" can there possibly be? Plenty, and Isabella's is big enough to be any two of them, yet is still packed enough for unreasonable waits to get in for its hearty portions of tame Mediterranean food, even when sidewalk tables are added. Reservations are advisable, and who knows if you'll be shunted aside for stars. But if you break through, and can deal with the roaring crowd, you will find excellent eggs Benedict served with grace.
Isabella's is high-ceilinged, heavy walls have high windows to admit light, and potted palms and flowers add a little color to the room. Despite the spaciousness, tables are closely packed together, and the noise level is high. A central stair leads to more widely spaced tables on a more private mezzanine, with framed photographs instead of windows. The small Siberian nook near the rest rooms is comfortably quiet (I haven't been seated there). The kitchen is directly below the raised dining area, its entrance unobtrusive yet at the restaurant's center.
Coffee was very hot: Thermos coffeepots may be ugly, but they are practical. A $6 mimosa was delicious: not only was its fresh orange well spiked with champagne, but it was the coldest mimosa ever served me. Ask for a bloody Mary and you first get to choose from a list of vodkas (paying a buck extra for premium). Water is served on request. Quick to arrive was a basket of soft, crusty bread which, though was tainted with raisins, was served with whipped, sweet raspberry butter.
The eggs Benedict was a cheap $6.50 but came with no appetizer, so I ordered the $4.95 seasonal fruit appetizer, a plate with large, chilled slices of orange, apple, melon, and pineapple, plus berries, all prettily laid out.
The eggs Benedict took a long time to arrive, yet when it did the poached eggs were hot and perfectly cooked. The hollandaise was almost too buttery, but was very good. The Canadian bacon was lightly grilled, depriving it of a little flavor but making it unusually juicy. English muffins were lightly toasted. It was a picture-perfect eggs Benedict, pure yellow yolk oozing through pale hollandaise when poked with a knife, a discreet amount of green chopped parsley sprinkled on top. The home fries were superb - sauteed chopped potatoes and caramelized onion with liberal pinches of whole rosemary - and two melon slices perched on plate edge completed the meal.
Service was excellent throughout. My table was pulled out for me as I sat, its metal stand shrieking as it scraped against the floor. The staff was efficient, knowledgeable about dishes, and well mannered, though had I known that my waiter would stuff my check folder so deeply in his pants upon my payment, I might have handed it more gingerly. The busing staff does rush people: plates are removed from tables before all diners have finished. When it happened to the table next to me, the remaining diner was still working on her eggs Benedict, visibly enjoying every bite and taking her own sweet time.
Rest rooms: The two rest rooms are clean but as cramped as those in an airplane. In self-mocking tribute to this, their locks are airplane style, with red "occupied" indicators.
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