The career of bar manager Ilya Romanov at the Russian Hill Japanese restaurant Nisei, which just won a Michelin star last month, and it’s adjacent sister bar Bar Iris at 2310 Polk Street, was certainly taking off. Romanov, a previous veteran of the bars at The Battery, The Dorian, and Niku Steakhouse, had just been named a Rising Star Bartender by StarChefs magazine. But his career came to an unexpected and tragic end Friday night, as the Chronicle reports he fell from the roof of the establishment and was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 33.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Ilya Romanov, the soul of @bar_iris_sf,” the bar said in the Monday Instagram post above. “He was a person of great character, always brought joy to those around him, and possessed incredible work ethic. He did things his own way and always brought his team and friends up with him. Ilya excelled at anything he put his mind to, and we are honored it was Bar Iris.”
The San Francisco restaurant community is mourning the loss of Ilya Romanov, the kind face behind Bar Iris https://t.co/l7GR1pYhvv— Janelle Bitker (@JanelleBitker) January 2, 2023
Romanov arrived in the U.S. from Russia at the age of 17, and attended culinary school at Cabrillo College in Aptos. He relocated to San Francisco in 2014, joining The Battery as a bartender, and over the years moving from The Dorian to Beehive, Niku Steakhouse, and eventually opening Bar Iris in 2021 with Nisei’s Chef David Yoshimura.
According to his StarChefs bio, “Romanov’s cocktails are intentional and detail-oriented, but simple in appearance, which highlights their quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from local foragers and the miniature garden on the bar’s roof.” But it appears that’s the same roof from which Romanov tragically fell on Friday.
A coworker tells the Chronicle that it's not clear why Romanov went up to the roof on Friday around 11:30 p.m., at which time it would have been rainy.
“The preliminary investigation has determined that the victim fell from a nearby roof,” SFPD public information officer Sergeant Adam Lobsinger told the Chronicle. “At this time the death appears to be accidental and foul play is not suspected.”
Romanov is survived by his three-year-old son Ezra, and his ex-wife Mayanka Romanov.