When evaluating a restaurant, one takes into consideration the food, of course, but also the service and the ambience. When the three are at their finest and everyone is working together, you have a great dining experience.
But if only one of those components is at an acceptable level and the other two are substandard, should the restaurant get a review that ends in a recommendation? What if the only thing good about the place is the food? Should that be given more weight?
That’s what I’m faced with here as I lay out my review of Isla Verde by V in downtown Orlando. My food was terrific — roast pork, moist and tender, topped with freshly sauteed onions, green peppers and red peppers and accompanied by a stack of greens and a timbale of mofongo fashioned out of yuca. All of the ingredients crowded the plate, and everything, with the exception of the rather plain salad, was well seasoned, beautifully presented and quite delicious. The three sauces, including a piquant chimichurri, added nice grace notes.
But the fact that I waited a ridiculously long time for the food, and in an atmosphere that made it feel as though the space, inside the Plaza building, wasn’t quite finished, made the food a little less enjoyable.
My initial greeting in the place was by one of the servers who, seeing that I was dining alone, motioned to the bar. I should mention that there was no one at the bar — including a bartender — so I said that I would rather not sit there. So the young man showed me to a table that was not in his station so that he would not have to wait on me.
The young woman who was assigned to my table couldn’t have been more dour. With her I made the egregious error of not knowing what I wanted to order before looking at the menu. Fine. If I needed a minute to look things over she’d be glad to give me 10.
In the meantime, the party at the table next to mine finished and left. Their soiled plates would remain on the table throughout my stay. The two gentlemen who appeared to be either owners or managers did not see it as part of their duties to do something as lowly as bus a table. The young man who wanted me to sit at the bar didn’t see it as his duty, either.
Tables are covered with black cloths (and sometimes dirty plates), except for the ones that aren’t expected to be seated for the evening. Those remain uncovered. The ceiling is double height (there appears to be some sort of loge overhead, though it wasn’t being used when I visited). The floor is a stained concrete, and music is provided by a television mounted high on a wall behind the bar and tuned to a Latin music station. As anyone who has purchased a television in the past 10 years can attest, the built-in speakers are inadequate to provide good sound.
For the record, I was thanked warmly by one of the managers when I got up to leave.
So, is good food enough to put up with the rest?
I recommend takeout.
Isla Verde by V (I have no idea who or what V is) is at 171 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The website is not yet functional. The phone number is 407-270-9614.