Isis Restaurant & Music Hall

There are restaurants that are pretty easy to categorize, and then there are restaurants, like Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, that are more challenging.  On the one hand, when we walked in on their very first night last Monday, we found only one vegetarian entree on the menu, so it’s hard to put them in the “Veg Friendly” category.  On the other hand, that particular veg entree was so good, I could have sworn I was eating at Plant or Laughing Seed.  And they say that they plan on adding more vegetarian items as their menu expands.

I think you can see my dilemma.

I ultimately decided to put them in the “Chef is Willing but the Menu is Weak” category, with high hopes that we’ll be able to move them to the “Vegetarian Friendly” category soon.  I figure that puts them in good company with The Admiral and The Junction, and gives them room to stretch their already very creative wings.

But, as usual, I digress.  Let me first say that the interior (and exterior, for that matter) of the Isis is exquisite.  If you’ve never eaten in the restaurant that formerly occupied that space for many years, Pastabilities, you’d have no way of knowing just what a breathtaking transformation has taken place.  Gorgeous tables with tops made from salvaged oak flooring, Art Deco lighting, a long and elegant bar, an artsy stairway up to the second, more intimate bar and performance space, and then a balcony overlooking the main performance space–a stage set up in the back room.  Add to this ample outdoor seating (for when the weather is nice again), and you’ve got all the elements of what will no doubt become a destination restaurant and music venue in West Asheville.

And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet.

We were pleased to meet the new owner, and to be offered a two-top near the front where we had a great view of the whole restaurant.  While they don’t make a big deal about it, the menu seems to be French/New Orleans/Fusion.  (I didn’t pay much attention to the non-vegetarian items, so my apologies if that is not their intention.)   The soup of the evening was a butternut squash and apple soup that was definitely vegetarian (we asked).  I was so impressed.  It was creamy and substantial, with a great mix of flavors that turned out to be a perfect foil to a night that had taken a turn for the chilly.  Our entrees were also delightful–we both had the Vegetarian Ratatouille on a bed of butternut squash tortellini.  I asked if the tortellini was homemade.  It wasn’t, but you could have fooled me on that.  The tortellini was flavorful, sweet and spicy in a pumpkin-pie kind of way–completely satisfying.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly, and the presentation was so beautiful I almost didn’t want to eat it at first.  I took pictures, but it was pretty dark in there and they didn’t come out.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  Sean asked for bread to go with the pasta, and they were nice enough to oblige with some fresh focaccia.  It was still a little on the cold side (apparently it was not part of the normal dinner offerings and had been residing in the cooler), but it tasted delicious, and I was very impressed that our server accommodated our request without question.

I had a feeling I was going to be too full for dessert (I was), but I also guessed that I’d be doing myself (and you, Gentle Reader) a disservice if I didn’t at least try one (or two) desserts.  Sean was nice enough to help me with that.  He got the Nutella Something-Or-Other Bomb (a round mound of chocolate-coated Nutella on a peanut butter cookie with a square of toasted marshmallow, peanut brittle, white chocolate shaving and raspberry coulis), and I got an Apple Tart, which was supposed to be served with buttermilk ice-cream, but which I asked if I could sub with the butterscotch ice-cream.  I think it was a good choice, although I also hoped I hadn’t offended the chef, who, by the way, was an honest-to-goodness pastry chef.  (That was obvious from the moment the beautifully-plated creations were presented.)  Sean’s dessert was almost sinfully rich, but fascinating in the variety of flavors represented and the artistry of their arrangement.  The crust on my tart was buttery and flaky, and the ice-cream added just the right comfort-food element.

Okay, it’s dark, but you get the idea…


Apple Tart with Butterscotch Ice-Cream

We lingered after dinner, checking out the upstairs and happily running into some friends, who seemed to agree that the restaurant was a hit.  We left way too late, but thrilled to have been able to spend an impromptu Monday night enjoying a delicious three-course surprise of a meal in what we are sure will soon become one of our favorite spots in West Asheville.

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