La Isla Restaurant / Dominican
La Isla Restaurant
(between Havemeyer Street & Marcy Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
A hidden gem beneath the elevated stretch of the JMZ line in Williamsburg, La Isla Restaurant serves up authentic and delicious Dominican, Puerto Rican and Caribbean inspired dishes to the local Hispanic community.
The restaurant is tough to locate if you’re not actively seeking it out, but a stroll past Checkers on your left will lead you right to this unsuspecting haven of all things fried.
The inside of La Isla Restaurant is not much to look at. The space is no more than a food counter, with two oblivious servers shuffling back and forth, supposedly “taking orders.” We literally had to reach over the counter and manhandle these men to draw their attention.
Look to the menu board for inexpensive classics, or gaze longingly into the heated fried foods case for inspiration. The glass encased bounty includes all types of roasted and oil crisped meats.
The unique bite below, tender sweet plantains stuffed with shredded and spiced beef, pimentos and olives, was truly something special. The sweetness of the plantains cut perfectly through the tender and fatty meat, while the liberal spicing elevated the ingredients to a higher state. This dish is definitely worth an order or two when you visit La Isla Restaurant.
Below, the beautiful visage of chicharrones warming in the heated display case. This batch was roasted until the fat and skin hit the ideal level of crackle. This is amazing stuff, and a great representation of what this restaurant does so well.
One of Isla’s strengths, the cuchifritos, or fried bites that often feature pork, are all unusually tasty.
The blood sausage was nicely spiced, and was built upon a healthy rice base. The flavor had none of the tinny or metallic qualities of lesser quality blood sausage. With a snappy casing and a poppy bite, this was a fine example of this delicious peasant staple.
The papas rellenas, or fried potatoes stuffed with meat, were also very well done.
The fish cake, constructed of baccala and spices, was tasty, but the dish retained a bit too much of the frying oil, which led to a slightly greasy finish.
This mammoth roast pork sandwich for $5 was an outrageous bargain. The pork meat is plucked from the cuchifrito case as a large hunk, and hacked to shreds upon ordering. It’s then ushered to the back of the kitchen to be placed on a tasty and doughy sandwich bun. While the dish would benefit greatly from a mayonnaise based condiment, it was still oozing with flavor and showcased the essence of slow roasted Dominican pork. The crisp skin paired perfectly with the unctuous meat, and made for a hefty and solid meal.
The mofongo, a scooped dome of pork fat fried diced plantains, brought back pleasant memories of my time in Puerto Rico. I loved biting into the crisped bits of garlic buried within the starchy mound of flavor. While La Isla Restaurant’s rendition could’ve used more pork fat during the cooking process to amp up the flavor even more, I was still impressed by the chef’s execution here.
And yes, those are giant nuggets of roasted pork nestled happily next to the mofongo.
If you find yourself traveling along the JMZ line in Brooklyn, and you have some time to kill, hop off at the Hewes Street stop and give La Isla Restaurant a try. You may sweat grease for the remainder of your commute home, but I doubt you’ll regret your decision for a second.