Isarn is curiously located on a rather uncharted part of Upper Street, a little further north than the clustering of restaurants towards Angel and a little further south than the clustering around the Almeida Theatre, resulting in a rather quiet dinner service despite having read great reviews. Well, it’s your loss, more food for me!
Besides the usual staples Isarn also have some less common dishes scattered on their menu, which I can’t wait to try. The highlight, though not uncommon, was the Roasted Duck Red Curry. Creamy and rich from the coconut milk with a good amount of well cooked duck. I just cannot resist anything with coconut milk in it, I will happily consume this piece of heaven in any form! Definitely order some coconut rice to slurp up the curry with. Coconut milk based curry with coconut milk infused rice, I can’t think of a better combination! Some extra pineapples, however, would have provided this curry with more layers to cut through the richness but overall this was a champion of a curry.
How can you not order Pad Thai in any Thai feast? Pad Thai is so common nowadays that you can find it in your local Chinese takeaway but a good Pad Thai can be hard to come by. Isarn’s may be a bit on the sweet side but the sauce worked really well with the rice noodles and the prawns were ample and fresh. I would have liked a handful of chopped peanuts to shake things up though.
The Char grilled swordfish with lemongrass mint peanut salsa is something I’ve never ordered before. The swordfish on its own could be a bit plain and lacking flavour but mixed with the salad provides a great combination of textures. The flavours could have been stronger, potentially with more spice akin to Thailand’s famed papaya salads (Som Tam), however the lemongrass and mint does give this dish a hint of freshness. Overall a palatable dish.
The steamed prawn and coconut dumpling was a bit hit or miss. The problem is that the chewy dumpling wrapper absorbed far too much of the soya sauce underneath making it slightly too salty. Serving this as a side would do the trick. The filling was fine but a little indistinguishable under the thick wrapper. I almost feel like this would have worked better in a soup. After all that food I was already bursting at the seams, if not that Mango with Black Sticky Rice dessert had my paws all over it!
Service was welcoming and efficient, as is often the case in Thai restaurants even outside the Land of Smiles. It was however awfully quiet throughout the night which was a shame. The decor is interestingly designed by Archer Humphyres Architects who have had their hand in Busaba Eathai and Cay Tre (the owner, Krish, is the head chef at Busaba Eathai on Wardour Street). The blackened timber adding a touch of understated elegance to the surroundings though oddly matched with cowhide chairs.
Overall, filled to the brim and good pricing. Worth the walk from Angel or Highbury and Islington for delicious Thai food. Spice levels weren’t too strong, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your ability to handle spice.
Address: 119 Upper Street, London, N1 1QP
Telephone: 0207 424 5153
Mind the Gap:
Mon – Fri: 12pm – 3pm . 6pm – 11pm
Sat: 12pm – 11pm
Sun: 12pm – 10pm
Panda ate, shot and left.