photo credit: Alex Staniloff

A large open kitchen with cooks moving about.




$$$$Perfect For:Special OccasionsImpressing Out of Towners
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The first time we ate at Ilis, the Greenpoint restaurant from a Noma co-founder, our server informed us that no questions were off limits.

Immediately, we pointed to a tub of pebbles on a counter in the vast open kitchen, and asked where they were from.

“Hand-foraged on a beach in northern Maine,” said our server, who, like every other server here, is also a cook.

Moments before, we had attempted to pry open an oversized clam shell that had, it turns out, been sealed with beeswax. (“You’re supposed to drink it,” said a stranger sitting next to us.)

It all felt very silly.

A dining room in a former warehouse with a big open kitchen in the middle.

There are more tables in the back, near a wall of hanging credit: Alex Staniloff

The second time we visited this warehouse-like spot with tall brick walls and dripping candlesticks, we sat at the bar, next to a former philosophy professor who had transitioned to the role of landscaper at a meditation retreat in the Catskills. We both ordered the brussels sprouts, served on-stalk, one of several dishes that Ilis insists be eaten like corn on the cob.

After we finished, we asked the landscaper for their thoughts.

“I almost cried,” they said.

Again, we were skeptical. The landscaper’s experience did not match our own.

On our third visit, we saw where the landscaper was coming from.

An open kitchen filled with busy cooks dressed in all black.

The open kitchen, where cooks politely pretend you aren't credit: Alex Staniloff

There are shades to the Ilis experience. Whether you choose the $295 tasting menu, $195 five-course prix fixe, or a la carte option at the bar, how you react to this place will largely depend on how often you roll your eyes. If you fully buy in, you can have an engaging, special, off-the-wall meal. If you don't, you’ll at least get to eat some hyperbolically fresh, raw, and fire-roasted food.

In a city where every other sunchoke was grown upstate, this place takes local dining one step further. Sourced almost exclusively from the American Northeast, Ilis’ ingredients are paraded around the dining room and given folksy backstories: Three hundred pounds of pawpaw, collected by hand. Rose hips harvested in the wild. Douglas fir pine cones miraculously discovered on a hike through the woods (which is, you know, exactly where they would be).

A piece of roasted eel alongside an edible flower.

Be a good guest, and eat your eel like corn on the credit: Ilis

Dishes change constantly, and each menu overlaps. Past highlights have included lobster poached in rosewater, crab and persimmon suspended in a sweet gelée, birch-baked trout with notes of strawberry Pocky, and oysters spritzed with pineapple juice. Even a pickled green strawberry—delivered as a snack before dinner—or a simple Japanese sweet potato, confited in beeswax and sliced tableside, is enough to make you sentimental. Of course, that sweet potato benefits from a heavy tablespoon of caviar.

Ask your server where the caviar comes from, and you’ll get a very non-Ilis answer: Serbia.

When it comes to the restaurant’s mission statement, there are holes you can poke. Not everything is as local as it seems—including the trout’s birch-bark vessel (from “a secret Etsy supplier in China”), the million-dollar art on the walls, and a sound system that was briefly lost in customs in Mexico City. But, no matter how many foraging parties they bravely dispatched to the forests of New England, Ilis was never going to change the world. At least their schtick is (mostly) convincing.

Tables topped with candles in a restaurant with a brick wall behind them.

Not a tablecloth in credit: Alex Staniloff

Despite the high concept, Ilis is pretty loose, less of an uptight gala and more of a choreographed dinner party thrown by performance artists who fully commit to the bit. Your server might hit you with a fist bump before explaining the provenance of their yuzu, and the chef might walk over and ask if you need more salt. If you decline, he might then shrug and respond, “I think everything needs more salt,” before shuffling back to the kitchen, where a dozen or so cooks fiddle with antelope and nasturtium to the sounds of Tupac and The Rolling Stones.

For a relatively casual experience, you can even walk in without a reservation, grab a seat at the 14-seat bar by the entrance, and enjoy a nonchalant plate of wood-fired boar alongside a cocktail infused with ginger and chamomile. But that’s not the ideal way to experience Ilis. If you can spend the extra cash, the pageantry of the prix fixe is worth it.

A crab shell filled with a small pool of sauce, with more crab meat in a separate dish in front of it.

On the rotating menu, there's always something credit: Alex Staniloff

In order to get the most out of this restaurant, you need to give it a chance to impress you—which it wants, more than anything, to do. You have to let the servers flaunt their produce and get some knowledge off their chests, and you need to sit beneath the bare rafters of the cavernous room and watch the well-to-do of North Brooklyn eat invasive eel like corn on the cob.

Best case scenario, Ilis is the highlight of your year. Worst case scenario, it’s a parody so successful that you’re forced to take it seriously. Either way, it’s going to be fascinating, delicious, and teetering on ridiculous.

Food Rundown

Baskets of fresh produce and meat on a table in a restaurant.

photo credit: Bryan Kim

Menu Options

There are three ways to dine at Ilis: the Field Guide tasting menu, the Market Menu prix fixe, and a short a la carte menu at the bar (where you can also do a tasting if you reserve). The restaurant’s offerings are based on what’s currently fresh and available, so dishes change constantly. Here are some past items we’ve come across, on all three menus, which always include some of the same dishes. (Brussels on the cob for everyone!)
A large surf clam shell on a bowl of ice surrounded by uni.

photo credit: Britt Lam

Surf Clam

Served from the roving raw bar cart visits your table with supplemental items after your initial order, this is, arguably, Ilis’ signature dish. It’s a clamato-like beverage of smoked surf clam stewed into a dashi with tomato and garlic, housed in a shell that’s sealed with beeswax and tied with twine. The drink is light and refreshing, and it would be fairly unremarkable if it weren’t for the presentation. But it costs less than $20, so in the context of your very pricey meal, the gimmick feels worth it.
Uni served in-shell and topped with uni custard.

photo credit: Britt Lam


Our favorite raw bar item, this uni is served in-shell with confited potato, and topped with a fluffy uni custard. Cool, creamy, and mellow, it’s a very brief and very pleasant dream.


Another option from the cart, Ilis’ oysters typically come in two elaborately garnished preparations. If they’re available, choose the ones with a squeezable pineapple wedge on top. The sweetness and acidity work incredibly well.

Dungeness Crab

This West Coast crab isn’t especially local, but it is delicious. Served in-shell (a theme at Ilis) and submerged in a gelée with a sauce made of crab roe and persimmon, it’s lightly sweet and silky smooth.
Brussels sprouts served on the stalk, with truffle shavings on top.

photo credit: Bryan Kim

Brussels Sprouts

On our first visit, we were served a small portion of eel and instructed to eat it like corn on the cob. “How quirky,” we thought. On our second visit, we ordered these sweet glazed brussels, still attached to their stalk, and were once again coerced into eating them corncob-style (holding the caribou antlers attached to both ends). We do not know why this place is obsessed with cobs, but we can tell you that these $30 al dente brussels are simply good, but nothing worth crying over.
Lobster served in-shell with aioli and a lemon wedge.

photo credit: Bryan Kim


The lobster could be the dish that sold us on Ilis. Our preparation was gently poached with rosewater, with a big spoonful of aioli. Nothing too wild there—but the sour beach rose petals scattered on top made the dish taste strange and new.
A small sweet potato sliced in half and served with caviar on top.

photo credit: Bryan Kim

Japanese Sweet Potato

The sweet potato is also a standout, and a very Ilis dish. It’s brought to your table fully intact, then covered in hot beeswax, and allowed to cook beside you for 10 minutes. Next, it’s sliced open, and a dollop of caviar is applied, with a touch of hazelnut oil. On its own, the potato is pure, sweet, and buttery, and the caviar brings some briny saltiness.
A piece of trout with cabbage on the side that's topped with trout roe.

photo credit: Bryan Kim


This restaurant does incredible things with trout. We’ve had it whole and baked in bark, and we’ve also had a filet, served alongside cabbage that was braised for 24 hours before being smothered in trout roe butter. The filet was our favorite—due to the cabbage—but you can confidently order whatever version is on the menu.

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