ISLA Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar

This place tries… They try to be upscale. But it’s located in Treasure Island. The clientele is a mixed bag of people out for a decent dinner, families, or others who look like they just got off the plane.

They try to create a cool atmosphere with the comfortable lounge overlooking the casino, chic/modern furnishings, and open kitchen. But the entry to the dining room from the lounge seems awkward and narrow — like you’re going in a back way. The coolness factor dipped way down when I saw the clown in front of me grab a handful of toothpicks from the hostess stand as he was walking back to his table. He tried to stuff them in his pocket but only half of them made it. The other half ended up on the floor. One of the hostesses tried to move them aside with her foot, but didn’t have much luck as she was trying to balance on one foot. She walked away after her unsuccessful attempt. Toothpicks: 1, hostess: 0.

They try to lure new customers with Groupons. They had some available last year, and again this year. They’re successful on this point. I got one and some friends got one.

They try to bring a new spin to Mexican food, but I didn’t feel like it was anything I haven’t seen before. Isla is one of Richard Sandoval’s restaurants. If you’ve been to NY, DC, or Denver you might be familiar with some of his other spots (Zengo, La Sandia, La Biblioteca, etc.). The food at Isla may not be revolutionary, but they use better ingredients than your typical Mexican restaurant.

The guacamole was tasty and filled with chunks of fresh avocado, tomatoes and onions.

The ceviche was a delicious stack of rock shrimp, cilantro, and tomatoes, but was a little too hot for my tastes.

The filet fajitas were a large mix of tender beef, peppers, onions, and mushrooms with a gooey pile of cheese on top.

The beef barbacoa enchiladas were 3 tightly wrapped tortillas stuffed with a mild mix of chipotle sauce and delicious beef, topped with a red and green sauce and sour cream. I really liked how they didn’t over-sauce the dish. I hate it when my food is drowning in sauce.

Cocktails were excellent. Both their primo margarita and mojiito were some of the best ones I’ve had in a while.

The service wasn’t bad either. After telling the guy we had Groupons, I expected to be ignored all night. But he checked up with us a few times to make sure the food was good. Although he could have stopped by more often to offer us more cocktails. When he brought the check he forgot to subtract the Groupons, so we had to bring that to his attention.

Prices aren’t outrageous, at least for the Strip. Sure the Groupons helped. After tax and tip each one of us spent less than $40 per person.

3.5 Stars

— Updated 12/29/11 —

We headed back to Isla after a friend gave us a Groupon that was about to expire. Our kid always gets a cheese quesadilla at any Mexican restaurant and was happy with the one here. The wife opted for the tacos rajas ($11.95) — a platter of three tacos filled with potatoes, poblano peppers, onions, and crema fresca along with some refried beans and rice on the side. The tacos were a different, but in a good way.

I had the tacos al pastor ($13.95) — adobo marinated pork, grilled pineapple, onions, cilantro, salsa verde. The pork could have had a bolder taste and used more onions and pineapple. Honestly, if you want great al pastor tacos you have to head to Tacos El Gordo on Charleston. Not only are they much cheaper, the flavors will give you a kick in the mouth… again, in a good way. I wasn’t crazy about the rice. It tasted like Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice — bland and uninspired. The beans were good, though.

We finished the meal with an order or churros ($7.95). You really can’t go wrong with churros. Light, crispy, sugary sweet with a caramel and chocolate dipping sauce… so good.

I still think this restaurant is ok. Not great Mexican food, nor terribly inventive, but solid nonetheless. It’s on the Strip so you know it’s going to be pricey.

3.5 Stars

Treasure Island
3300 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89136
(702) 894-7349

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