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VOL. 133 | NO. 164 | Monday, August 20, 2018

Restaurant Iris Reopens Wednesday with New Look, New Menu

Special to The Daily News

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On Wednesday, Aug. 22, Kelly English opens the doors to a new Restaurant Iris, 10 years, four months and 20 days after he opened it the first time. It’s also his 40th birthday, as good a time as any, English says, to launch a midlife crisis or have an unforgettable celebration. Whichever, perhaps both.

Know this: Iris 2.0 is not just an update to the original. This time, it’s all new. Surf n Turf? Wipe out on that. Out are the brussels sprouts. Lobster knuckle sandwich? Well, perhaps there’s a bit of hope on seeing that one at The Second Line, but nothing remains from the original Restaurant Iris menu.

“We’ve taken a more modern look at what fine dining is,” Chef Kelly English said of the new layout of Restaurant Iris. Among the new additions is an open bar area that seats 12 where bartender Jason Savelli handcrafts a cocktail for a customer. (Daily News/Patrick Lantrip)

Instead, the menu features five new snacks, five new starters (equate those to small plates) and six new entrees. At the soft opening over the weekend, the bar menu remained unveiled, but it will be ready by opening night and have more Creole influence than the dining menu.

A quick rundown of some items we tried at the soft opening and at a special Friday lunch the week before show a range of fare from ham hock hushpuppies with smoked lardo aioli to seared trout with green tomato gazpacho and fig and fennel salad.

The hushpuppies are dense, speckled with ham hock and fried to a serious crunch. The aioli is ridiculously over the top: Smoked pork fat gives it a rich and distinctive flavor and it’s destined to be a crowd pleaser.

“We’ve been here for about 10 years,” Chef Kelly English said of the newly-remodeled Restaurant Iris. “We wanted to make what was old, new again.” After shutting down for a complete interior overhaul, English’s flagship restaurant concept will reopen to the public Aug. 22.  (Daily News/Patrick Lantrip)

Trout amandine will be available at The Second Line, English’s restaurant next door to Iris, and the lobster knuckle sandwich also, but only when lobster is readily available and only upon request.

A chopped salad of squash, zucchini, avocado and crab dressed in sumac ranch and topped with fried shallots is a more virtuous beginning and a generally more satisfying start to a meal. Also on the starter menu: Celery root gnocchi with parmesan cream, Benton’s bacon and an egg yolk just begging for a knife tip. It’s sufficient for a light meal as it’s both rich and generously served.

Two beef dishes bear mention. A starter, seven-spice brisket is meltingly tender and topped with roasted lima beans and a pomegranate and pistachio gremolata, a Middle Eastern touch from executive chef Camron Razavi. (Labnah, similar to Greek yogurt but thicker and creamier, shows up with beets topped with spiced pumpkin seeds and sweet bits of honeycomb candy – another nod to Razavi’s background.) The Kobe beef flat iron with mozzarella bread pudding and arugula pistou is the heartiest entrée we tried (and the priciest at $38).

Kobe beef flat iron steak with mozzarella bread pudding, roasted tomatoes and arugula pistou was one of the new entrees Chef Kelly English featured on his menu during his Saturday, Aug. 18 soft opening.  (Daily News/Patrick Lantrip)

The seared trout was excellent, and the char sui quail the favorite of the table. The tiny birds were stuffed with a mushroom-chestnut dressing and served with greens and a spicy mustard caramel sauce.

The interior has been entirely redone. The west side of the building houses a large bar with 12 stools and three tables kept unreserved for walk-in diners. The two rooms on the east side have been converted to one large room, and the back room that previously housed one large table now holds four tables that can be converted to one large one.

Restaurant Iris, 2146 Monroe, opens Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 5 p.m. Favorites from the new menu include: Ham hock hushpuppies ($8); chopped salad of squash and zucchini ($12); celery root gnocchi ($14); char sui quail ($28); seared trout ($26).

PROPERTY SALES 51 223 1,152
MORTGAGES 55 189 861
BUILDING PERMITS 149 541 2,593