Byzantine, Holy Roman, Galactic — all great empires, now fallen.
And so it goes with the gardens of Imperial No. 9, Top Chef Sam Talbot's seafood sanctuary at the Mondrian SoHo. The empire struck out.
But it its place another rises: Isola, a tasteful trattoria hiding inside a glass-walled greenhouse.
The chandeliers and apothecary jars from Imperial remain, but the room now looks a little more like Boboli Gardens than Downton Abbey. And the food's had a makeover, too, with a real-deal Sicilian in the kitchen putting out plate after plate of crudo — the only kind of raw diet food we'd ever endorse.
Exhibit A: fluke dressed with Meyer lemon and olive oil, salmon with charred ramps, and a salsa verde'd hamachi that'll transport you to some seaside village on the Amalfi coast.
But don't stop there. Isola stuffs you with truffled lardo and a burrata pizza that hits all the right notes of fatty, starchy, and creamy.
Oh, and that massive Pat LaFrieda sirloin? You'll want a helper for that.
Because when you're taking down empires, you need a good wingman.
Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar
9 Crosby St. (Grand St.), SoHo
Price: 3 (out of 4) Noise: 2 (out of 4)
Subway: 6 to Spring St.
Scene: As casual a vibe as you can get at a sexy SoHo hotel — a sweet third date spot
Hot seat: Those chandeliers are lovely and all, but score one of the central seats — dinner's no fun without the threat of glass jars falling on your head
Best bets: hamachi crudo; Margherita pizza; dry-aged sirloin
Drink it in: In addition to a Negroni menu and on-tap vermouth, Isola's also pouring fresh, booze-free juices from nearby Liquiteria
Nearby: Back 40 West; Ken & Cook; Balthazar
Rundown's restaurant reviews are based on anonymous visits from reporters, not press releases.