Best Small Plates - 2002
This award would have been a tie, except for one factor: Chez Nous (Mediterranean small plates on Fillmore) is hella freaking loud. Thus, let's travel to the Marina District's Isa, a narrow slip of a restaurant that opens onto a quiet, spacious, heated outdoor patio. Having made his bones at some of the city's top restaurants, chef/owner Luke Sung puts a refined, California/classic French spin on the trendy small plate: goat cheese with pine nuts, tomato, and basil; potato-leek soup with truffle oil; potato-wrapped sea bass with capers and brown butter; a trio of dainty hanger steaks served with tarragon mustard and bordelaise sauce. We've had half a dozen meals here since we first discovered Isa -- from quiet dinners for two to banquets for 12 -- and the food has always been impeccable. In a town where small plates are huge, consider tiny Isa a colossus.