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39 Downing St. (Bedford St.) Send to Phone
Haute Cuban is the cuisine and colorful are the cocktails at this sleek Havana-cabana party place in the West Village.

Dinner nightly
Open late Fri.-Sat.

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: There are a bunch of upscale Latin spots in New York these days, but Isla is the only one that makes you feel like a blue kidney-shaped pool is awaiting you outside the door. Owner Diane Ghioto, a former Elle fashion editor and a Tampa native, got the 1950s Havana-cabana chic just right with blue-and-white tiles, aqua-colored Formica tabletops, hanging lamps the color of a tequila sunrise and aluminum-framed sliding windows that open wide. Heartthrob chef Aaron Sanchez (son of celebrity chef Zarela Martinez, of Zarela fame) put Isla on the culinary map when it opened in 1999. Though Sanchez left to open his own spot (the casual Lower East Side hit Paladar), under Chicama and Patria alumnus Juventino Avila the kitchen is better than ever. Get a pitcher of the vodka-spiked honey lemonade for the table, then order dishes that are familiar---croquetas, empanadas, ropa vieja---yet elevated from the versions you love at your local Chino-Latino place. Bored with mussels? Try them here because Avila has really done something different; the shellfish arrive plump and moist in a heady broth of smoked tomatoes and aguardiente de cana (liquor made from sugarcane). Madeira-marinated filet mignon is a popular dish, but Avila’s way with seafood shouldn’t be missed: almond-crusted grouper (a rather rare catch in New York City) is sweetened with a corn crema, a lobster-and-orange mojo (you’ll wish you could buy a bottle of it) add spice to shrimp coated in plantain. At Isla, it’s summer all year long.
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