Iso Japanese is ready for its close-up

There’s a change happening in Yonkers, a change that’s been ongoing for more than a decade now.

New developments have been shooting up along the Hudson River, transforming the waterfront landscape from its industrial past to a series of luxury apartment towers. Where once sat a weed-covered vacant lot is today the home of a series of elevated walkways that give viewers a glimpse of the newly uncovered Saw Mill River, which previously ran underneath the bustling city.  Recent years have seen the unveiling of green space at Van der Donck Park in the city’s downtown and new restaurants or breweries popping up across the city.

Yonkers’ transformation is also apparent in another section of town, where developers have turned a long-neglected property at 1086 N. Broadway in the northwest section of the city into a bustling mixed-use development.

The Boyce Thompson Center, an 85,000-square-foot former nonprofit horticultural research center, sat vacant for 40 years before Simone Development Cos. gave the property an extreme facelift. A fountain-adorned front plaza gives visitors a view of the revamped center’s new tenants, ranging from Westmed to Starbucks. Trendy eateries like The Taco Project and Fortina have opened their doors in recent months.

The 7-acre complex is also home to ISO Japanese Cuisine, a sleek, understated restaurant that opened in June and takes up residence in a corner of the brick building. 

As part of the renovations, much of the interior of the nearly 90-year-old building was gutted, though the existing brick remains, paying tribute to the long history of the structure. Exposed pipes and industrial fixtures can be found on the ceiling, though the undoubted focal point of the restaurant is the floor-to-ceiling, black-and-white photograph of two elegant geishas, their lips a deeper shade, their hair pinned up with intricate accessories.

It’s early on a weekend day, but there are a number of patrons sitting outdoors, seeking shade while enjoying cocktails or beers at patio tables. We head inside and grab a seat at one of the dark wooden booths situated near the large windows.

Because of the scorching heat, we quickly order drinks and are soon presented with a trio of cocktails. A passion fruit concoction is perfect for the summer months, while those less inclined to enjoy sweeter drinks will likely find their match in the lychee martini. Wine and beer are also available.

Service is prompt and polite, and it doesn’t take long for our table to be presented with our first dish. Blue crab fajitas are a hit with our crowd, bringing together an onion cream and cheese in a bite-sized slice. In another appetizer, thin slices of sea bass are drizzled with a breathtaking truffle vinaigrette. 

Other starter highlights include a plate of fresh oysters, an order of rock shrimp tempura served with a side salad and Kobe meatballs with balsamic glaze.

Slightly more adventurous eaters might enjoy the fried shrimp head. Though I pass on sampling what our server tells us is a delicacy, the diner who did sample the shrimp head — my fiancé — will later say it was his favorite part of the meal.

For me, the real standout is the toro tartare, both beautiful and flavorful, served with crispy balls of fried rice that are crunchy on the outside, slightly sticky on the inside. 

Sushi options are plentiful and we select a varied array, all of which are not only delicious but artfully presented.

A classic California roll is plated next to an eye-catching chicken tempura. A Yonkers roll brings together tuna and avocado topped with crunchy salmon and miso sauce, while a spicy tuna roll lives up to its name, packing a pleasant punch.

A sushi and sashimi platter for one features nine pieces of sashimi, five pieces of sushi and a tuna avocado roll, served alongside a choice of miso soup or small green salad. Like all other dishes we’re served during our meal, plating and presentation are simply stunning, worthy of any avid Instagrammer’s attention.

For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the chocolate lava cake, a petite serving of warm cake with a liquid center, paired with creamy vanilla ice cream.

When our meal has finished, we head outside and can’t help ourselves but snap a selfie in front of the beautiful fountain, the brick-walled building as our backdrop.

It seems that the refashioned Boyce Thompson Center and its tasty tenants are ready their close-up.

For more, visit isoyonkers.com.

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