By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
But then Isabella turns around and fish slaps you (a feisty shrew, it would be fun to think). Sea bass is the crab cakes of menu cartography. It's everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. It's been so long since a sea bass (aren't they extinct yet?) has roiled menu waters with any allurement. But this is rich and moist with distinctive supple flakes. It's topped with an olive pâté that tugs beautifully at the marine brininess.
The trout—headless and tailless but otherwise whole—is dull, however, despite a samoriglio bath (garlic, lemon, olive oil, herbs, etc). There was nothing even delicately interesting about it.
Our waiter, the same one who reads up on wine producers in between table visits, says his maternal grandmother is Sicilian, and gnocchi was their family Christmas dish. It was a big deal to see it on Isabella's menu, he says. It sure looks like a big deal.
It's finished in four cheeses: gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Look at that lineup. You'd think there'd be some assertive sensuality in there somewhere. Yes, the tight little potato boobs are wonderful cushions of al dente competence. They're arranged exactingly, frozen in place in the yellow four-cheese goo. The cheese hugs them so tautly—stretched like some sort of gorgonzola Saran wrap—that I fully expected to tease off sheets of skin that would shrivel and cling to the fork tines and dangle like strands of spit or worse. But the sauce is smooth and fluid, thick and hot. Pity it didn't taste better. The composition is inert, crying out for pepper or salt or crushed caper or something, anything to give that rusted roasted tomato in the center some relevance.
Hark though, the risotto with asparagus and grilled shrimp is successful. It's made with carnaroli, an Italian white rice grown in Piedmont and Lombardy. It has short, plump grains that generate a creamy texture while retaining a firm inner germ kernel. The rice is topped with plump smoky grilled shrimp, and the whole mound rests in a bright smear of pepper coulis that adds a mild bite.
Dessert is paraded by on a multilevel tray. We spied the mascarpone cream cheese cake with pistachio graham cracker crust and bit. There was much gladness. Sometimes this Isabella chick really clicks. 1279 Legacy Drive at Stonebriar Commons, Frisco. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Friday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday. $$$