Fire and ice
RESTAURANTS • First Word
The Skinny: A decade after decamping from Copenhagen to New York, Noma co-founder Mads Refslund has landed in Brooklyn, with the much-hyped Ilis. Opened last month, the Greenpoint space is a temple centered on open-fire cooking with wild North American ingredients.
The Vibe: The space is stunning. Bar seats and dining room tables wrap around the open kitchen — with a raging wood-fueled hearth — in a U-shape. The soaring, unfinished ceiling makes the cavernous restaurant feel enveloping, far larger than it actually is. Despite a sizable footprint, there are only 60 seats in the dining room, and another 35 in the front bar/lounge.
The Food: While Refslund highlights wild game, like bison and venison, a substantial portion of the menu is devoted to his Noma-esque take on seafood and vegetables. Surf clams with tomato, sumac, and clam broth served in a flask made from the actual clam (sure, why not) could kick off a meal, followed by snacks like Penobscot Bay scallops with green strawberries, green gooseberries, and green almonds. Next, choose from a selection of ingredients prepared hot or cold (diner’s choice on the preparation style), leading into a larger share dish designed for two, like a whole brown trout bundled in grape leaves, wrapped in birch bark and slow-cooked over a mix of upstate-sourced woods (chef’s choice on the woods, unfortunately).
The Verdict: The food and its presentation — chefs also serve the dishes — make for a transportive evening. It’s a wow. –Kat Odell