When I first heard about Iluka from fellow foodies they always described it as a place with high quality seafood front and center without further complications as the product is good enough to stand by itself. The restaurant quickly became popular in the foodie community and it was therefore one of the restaurants I was supposed to have visited last year, but Covid put a stop to that plan. I therefore had to wait until now to finally try for myself.
The place is humble but very well designed with plenty use of colour with ceiling to floor red and green curtains with red chairs to match which gives the place a cosy and cool look.
To begin with we had 4 impressive oysters. 2 with caviar and 2 with a juice of green chili and just a bit of red onions. The first was a concentrated bite of the sea whereas the one with green chili was more balanced and wonderful playful. Impressive start.
Now having lived 3 years in Peru I have strong opinions as to what constitutes a ceviche, but I have experienced that outside Latin-American its almost always called a ceviche if it has raw fish in a sauce of some kind. This was definently not a Latin-American ceviche, but it was very delicious. Fresh sardines, bonito and the most red and sweet prawns I have had in a very long time was served on a bed of fresh fruits and a refreshing blackcurrant and cucumber juice. Combining the berries were very cold, almost frozen, with the strong and fresh sardines was a great idea as it immediately showed me that Beau knows how to combine and create great flavors.
Following this we were to boost the intensity in the form of a seafood tarte with blue mussels, halibut trout roe and herbs which was to be eaten taco style in a nori. Intense and great flavors and I just loved popping those big trout roes in my mouth releasing those great salty juices.
There is a first for everything and for me it was a first eating the flab from the king crab. It had texture like a mushroom so why not serve it with a glaze of smoked mushrooms that were equally sweet and full of umami. Surprisingly delicious in terms of flavor and texture.
This dish was definitely in the product is king category and boy was it a royal dish. Simple grilled langoustines served with brown butter and a bit of herb dust. Classic and simple but it was such a pleasure eating it as they were just that tasty.
This next dish was once again back in the intense flavor repertoire in the form of blue mussels, octopus, steamed vegetables, a spicy pepper sauce and just a bit of basil. For me the basil really brought the various elements together.
Now the only vegetable dish was even one of the main dishes. Roasted cauliflower served with a curry paste and a bit of hazelnut praline. A dish of wonderful contrasts where the roasted cauliflower was the taste carrier for the curry paste while providing nice textures at the same time.
To finish was one of the best desserts I have ever had. Rhubarb with pink pepper and a sake mouse. I have never had sake in a dessert, so the flavor completely surprised me and it kept surprising me all through the dessert. Simply just amazing and I am impressed by the creativity that went into this weird but just extremely delicious dessert.
Iluka surprised me in so many ways. I was very curious to see what would be the style of the kitchen, would be only “product is king” or would Beau also use his technical skills acquired from years at Noma. In reality it was both which from a menu point of view makes a lot of sense as the variations in spices and cooking methods provided for a very diverse and interesting menu. Which of the two methods did I love the most? I am not sure, but I truly enjoyed the combination that it provided.
Website: Restaurant Iluka
Head chef: Beau Clugston
Menu: A la carte and tasting menu
Price: $100 for the tasting menu
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark