The inside scoop: We’ve said it before, and we meant it. We’re
Lebanese Food New York CityMiddle East Meets Midtown
The place: Ilili
The scoop: It’s no secret that we’d hop a plane for Jean-Georges’ crispy rice sushi at Eden Rock. Or the country fried steak sliders at the Four Seasons Chicago. We live to travel, and at times, travel to eat. This week, we highlight exotic Oman, where we indulged in indigenous lobster and a myriad of eclectic Middle Eastern dishes infused with Asian influence at The Chedi in Muscat. When we aren’t traveling, we’re lucky enough to be based in New York City, so international flavors are just a quick cab ride away. The Flatiron District’s Ilili, a creation of Chef Philippe Massoud, has an impressive and comprehensive menu of Middle Eastern dishes with a distinctly modern twist. It’s like a piece of glamorous Beirut, brought to your doorstep in NYC.
The scene: The Lebanese know how to throw a party, and the resident DJ here sets the tone. There is no reverence in the air – Ilili is all about having a good time. Large groups are set up on banquettes and an overall loungey feel fills the restaurant, fusing the exoticism of the Middle East with a sexy, modern vibe.
The menu: Lebanese hospitality is demonstrated in their ritual of what the rest of us call “dinner.” An everyday meal is an occasion; a large selection of meze can fill every inch of your table. Chef Massoud presents almost forty selections of meze, from the traditional hummus and baba ghanoush to our favorite fattoush salad and rakakat – light and crispy cheese rolls. We recommend you bring your entourage and order the meze royale, which, at $139, is guaranteed to get your party started. The meat dishes are strong, especially the juicy lamb tenderloin, richly flavorful and marinated in herbs de Provence, and the 48-day-aged côte de boeuf for two, prepared French-style with cippollini confit and roasted garlic. It’s a dish that gives a number of steakhouses in NYC a run for their money. A meal at Ilili isn’t complete without desserts for the table to share, and someone clearly has a sweet tooth. The Ilili candy bar, a concoction of chocolate ganache and fig caramel, topped with Lebanese mint ice cream, white-chocolate sesame and pistachio is a standout.
Ilili, 236 Fifth Ave., ililinyc.com
(Photo courtesy of Ilili)