Isso broke into the scene to some rave reviews from both YAMU and the general public. Now, a couple of months down the line, we headed back to see if they’ve kept up their lofty standards.
Isso’s name doesn’t really leave much to the imagination with their prawn-centric theme. We loved their stuff when we dropped in for our first look back in April, but we’re taking a closer look with this first review. They’re also one of the only restaurants in Colombo that focuses on one core ingredient in all their dishes. We really appreciate the fact that they’ve kept their menu concise with a few clever and popular prawn variations.
The prices of the dishes depend on the size of the prawns with the large at Rs. 900, XL at Rs. 1100 and XXL at Rs. 1300, though we feel that the large is the sweet spot. They have a three step ordering system where you initially choose the prawn size, followed by the preparation and the type of carb. It’s simple and uncomplicated which is quite rare nowadays.
For the sake of comparison, we got the Northern Twist again (because we tried it during our first look) and it was just as good. This is Isso’s take on a Jaffna style prawn curry and it’s safe to say they do it justice. This had plenty of flavours going on with an emphasis on the tamarind and a peppery hit at the end.
We paired it with their sweet potato fries which we’d say is the best of their carb choices. These were chunky and crispy with a nice contrast of saltiness and a hint of sweetness. It’s also one of the healthier carbs around so you can actually enjoy this without feeling too guilty.
The Local Favourite a.k.a hot butter prawns is also a great reincarnation of the classic HBC preparation. It’s got this beautifully vibrant orange batter tossed in a good amount of chilli, peppers, capsicums and onions. The prawns were cooked just right with that heat from that extra chilli coming through well and a nice crunch from the thin batter. We had this with cous cous which was a tad dry, but we can see it working better with their red curry.
(Ed Note: The Local Favourite appears to be better as a dine-in dish as the light batter wilts a bit in the heat of delivery)
Isso recently introduced their Prawn Lampais (Rs. 900) which is currently only available on weekends. We’ve tried it a couple of times now and it’s the only thing we weren’t really impressed with. It’s not terrible by any means, but at Rs. 900 this comes with a less prawns than their regular stuff and it's just not worth it. The rice itself was too milky, with crucial elements like the blachan replaced by their chilli sambol which just doesn’t give that same flavour. The prawns again were very light on the spices, so the flavour was very similar to that of the rice.
Isso has taken up the former space of the cakery on Suleiman Terrace, which makes it a very accessible location in central Colombo. They’ve got a very simple set up which caters mostly towards take-out orders, but they do have a dine-in space for around fifteen.
The interaction with the staff is minimal since it’s quite a quick process, but they’re quite friendly so no complaints on that end. They also serve up all their stuff in plastic boxes with compartments which can be super useful later.
Isso’s staples have impressed enough to score 5/5 despite the somewhat lacklustre lamprais, which really says a lot about how impressive their stuff is. As far as prawns in Colombo are concerned, Isso is as good as it gets.
Isso deals with isso. Curried isso, tossed isso, isso with roast paan, and isso with bathala chips. Yes.
Isso's pretty self-explanatory — it derives its name from the prawn, they serve prawn, they are prawn.
සිංහල මම හිතන්නෙ ඉස්සෝ කියන්නේ ලංකාවේ ගොඩදෙනෙක්ගේ ආසම කෑමක්. ඉස්සෝ කියන වචනෙ ඇහුණ ගමන් පිස්සු හැදෙන යාළුවෝ ගොඩක් මට ඉන්නවා.