Ilis (150 Green St.) is opening tomorrow, October 12, in a space that was previously part of Greenpoint’s Faurschou New York. The shiny new spot has been on our radar since January when we first reported on it, but Chef Mads Refslund, a co-founder of the highly-acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant Noma, and his business partner Will Douillet, set their sights on North Brooklyn years ago.
Ilis joins other upscale Greenpoint destinations like U Omakase, Fulgurances Laundromat, Restaurant Yuu, and House, but does not identify as a tasting menu restaurant. What Ilis does offer is a refined, yet playful experience unlike any other in the neighborhood.
The newcomer’s name comes from the Danish words for fire and ice, which are ild and is, respectively. As the name suggests, the menu items are differentiated as either on ice and cooked over fire, meaning that some of the dishes are raw, chilled, cured, or fermented, while others are grilled, cooked, smoked, or charred on a large open fire, on and in modular custom grills.
Ilis’ ingredient-forward menu will focus on plants, seafood, and game of North America. Evyn Block, the head of public relations for Ilis, told Greenpointers that the restaurant will not serve any four-legged animals except wild and sustainable North American bison or venison or “animals who have lived a long healthy life for another purpose, such as a mature dairy cow.” Wild birds, such as duck and quail, will be a feature of the menu.
Ilis’ menu kicks off with five courses, with the option to add courses, but only if diners wish. Block explained that Ilis does not see itself as a tasting menu restaurant because guests are in control, choosing all ingredients and dishes, length of the experience and the manner of preparation. There is total flexibility on choice of food and length of the experience. Chef Refslund “doesn’t want anyone to feel trapped by a set menu or amount of time,” Block stated.
Each experience at Ilis begins with the arrival of two custom-designed carts, featuring produce on one and seafood on the other, from which guests can select items. After this initial course, guests choose which ingredients they would like in their meals, and if they prefer hot or cold preparation (or both). Meals will include a shared dish for the table, such as a whole roasted duck, which is only served in one preparation.
Block gave a few examples of other dishes that are on Ilis’ opening menu. One menu item is a clam fashioned into a flask, sealed with beeswax, and filled with a chilled clam drink containing tomato water and smoked dashi. Another similar item is a chilled zucchini beverage inside a zucchini with a straw made from the stem.
Another dish on the opening menu is venison tartare mixed with black garlic and spicebush, wrapped in beet rosettes, and finished with a broth made from late summer berries and roasted walnut oil. There are also raw deep sea scallops from Maine wrapped in salted anise hyssop and served with citrus, sweet peppers, and nasturtium, topped with a warm ponzu tea for diners to drink after eating the scallops.
The opening menu also includes an item called BBQ eel on the cob. Block explained that the eel is wild caught and brought to chefs live, brined for 48 hours, and then smoked. A marigold flower is used by the guest to brush it with a savory Japanese tare sauce. Block’s last example is a wild duck from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that is smoked and grilled with plum juice and a seaweed BBQ sauce. Block noted that the farmer supplies the duck only to Ilis.
Ilis offers an extensive wine list with a focus on natural wines from classic regions like Burgundy, Loire, and Rhone, as well as newer areas. Wine pairings and progressions are available. Ilis also has a full bar with a list of cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks, juices, and infusions.
The chefs, led by Executive Chef Refslund, Chef de Cuisine Bryce Shuman, and Sous Chef Kane Sorrells, discuss the menu with guests to determine what kind of experience each guest desires. Ilis has no front of house or back of house team. The chefs present the menu, cook the food, and serve the food, allowing a direct line of communication between chef and diner. Ilis calls this a “one house” system.
Half of Ilis’ 26-chef team will spend two weeks on the floor, and then swap with the other half of the team and spend two weeks in the kitchen. “This allows the chefs to become well-rounded restaurant team members, and also importantly guarantees the chefs a better living wage,” explained Block.
Ilis’s space is open plan with a large open kitchen at the center, and 58 seats that wrap around it, with a 14-seat bar and a lounge at the entrance. Tim Harrison, designer of the kitchen at acclaimed French Laundry, designed the expansive kitchen together with Chef Refslund.
The restaurant space is largely taken up by the kitchen, which is fully transparent to guests, but not performative, allowing guests to be closer to the product and the process. Block said that Chef Refslund and his team “like to say that all the best dinner parties wind up in the kitchen, and they hope Ilis will feel like a big dinner party.”
Ilis’ kitchen also contains aging compartments for meat, game, and fish, as well as temperature-controlled compartments for plants and flowers. Plants and flowers will be dried on workstations and hanging from walls and the ceiling beams.
Grant Blakeslee designed the restaurant to complement the kitchen and the raw warehouse space. One exciting feature is the rotating art installation from Faurschou New York, which starts with a work by Ai Weiwei made of Lego pieces.
If the sound of this experience sounds like a spectacle, fear not, as Ilis promises to offer a more casual service on Saturdays, starting later this season. The Saturday service will be “convivial and simpler” usually featuring some kind of BBQ.
Also debuting later in the season is Ilis’ 1,500 square-foot private dining space. For now, the restaurant can accommodate ten guests at a table in front of the kitchen and 6 guests at another table. The remainder of the tables are for two or four diners.
Ilis is open 5:30 p.m. – 12 a.m. Tuesday – Friday, and Saturday 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. later in the season. All tables are available via Resy. Very select lounge tables are saved for walk-ins, but the bar is fully walk-in.