Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review: Issis Pasta & Grill

The food selection at Sylvia Park exemplifies its core problem: because the mall is laid out in a long strip, the management decided it is a good idea to have duplicate outlets at both ends of the mall. This has led to the rather boring situation where the same mall houses two Subway franchises in ridiculous proximity (literally within the line of sight of each other), two West Coast café(they actually make good coffee), a couple of very similar Chinese buffet(Same price, same sized plates, same pile of deep fried mystery "stuff" and even showing the same sign saying that their food does not contain MSG, well that is scientifically impossible) and two identical sushi joints(where the management is mostly Australian, the workers are uniformly Korean, and their sushi is so consistently bland that they must have imported the ingredients from England, seems like sushi has nothing to do with Japan anymore). The food problem gets so bad that my co-worker often took unauthorised long breaks to have lunch at home, by the way he lives in Remuera 20 minutes drive away.

If we take out the duplicates, the major fast food chains, all the run of mill cafés and the Indian canteens (Seriously, they make exactly the same meals that is offered at Hare Krishna parties and it is not even free) we are left with a few eateries that all had a juice bar and pot of weed wheatgrass growing proudly by the cashier to prove their middle-class consciousness.

Issis is one of the few remaining non-ethnic place (I mean the food, it is still run by the, um, certain enterprising ethnicity) that does not display their yuppieness up in the air. Their menu include a few combinations of:
  • Pasta and sauce
  • Grilled/roast meat
  • Breakfast staples, i.e. bacon, eggs, buttered toast...
  • Garlic Bread
  • Salad with commercial vinegarette (in plain terms: acetic acid, corn starch and a bunch of E numbers)
While everything is made from fresh except the pasta, a spaghetti/fettuccine hybrid kept alive warm in an incubator, cooked well beyond al dente but at least it is not machine made; and the sauces which appears to have been simmering since Moses parted the water. The bacon & chicken carbonara I ordered for lunch is the said pasta with a scoop of thin sauce full of bacon scraps that did not make it to the slice and no trace of chicken at all, maybe mentions of "chicken" always imply "chicken salt". After all I can eat this without complains because it tastes just like my own cooking on a Wednesday night(not including the plastic cutlery and bottled drink). Familiarity conquers all.

The accompanying salad is much more impressive: Fresh, crispy and everything in just the right quantity. The dressing is disappointing just as expected but easy to ignore.