Today I woke up early and headed to my hubby’s co-worker’s House Warming. It was nice to finally meet my husband’s co-workers and now I can put a name to a face. Once we returned home, the temperature cooled down in the evening and I went for a 30 minute walk… it felt good.
So last night I went to dinner with my husband and friends, Jhiane and Marian. I was sort of celebrating my 100th post. We went to Ilili, a Middle Eastern / Mediterranean / Lebanese restaurant, in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. My friend, Marian, introduced this place to me a while back and I fell in love with it the first time I dined here.
Btw… I was curious what ilili meant so I looked it up and it means, “tell me” in Lebanese. Well I’ll tell you this restaurant is an experience in itself and shall not be missed. 🙂
238 5th Ave
New York, NY 10001
The ambience at Ilili is very chic, modern, and top-notch. You will walk into a narrow hallway where you will be greeted by a host.
You will then proceed into the lounge area and a bar towards the back.
The room on the left is for people who are dining in. This room is beautiful and appears spacious due to its high ceilings. Pay close attention to the architecture, or rather the geometric shapes, on the walls and ceiling. The dim lighting creates a sexy ambience making this an ideal date spot.
I had to use the restroom and I’m so glad I did. The candle-lit bathroom had a pretty glow and each stall had its own sliding door and its own sink. Talk about swanky!
Bar Scene, Couples, Fine Dining, Groups, Romantic Dining.
Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Lebanese.
MENU – $$$
Ilili Menu. Ilili offers prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner at $18 and $38, respectively. It also offers a Tapas style menu and the food here is usually shared. The portions are small and the prices range from $8 to $15 for a Mezza (appetizer). Each Mezza is enough for 2 people. I recommend ordering 3 to 4 Mezzas between 2 people as your meal, or you can order an entree and a couple Mezzas.
Dinner for 4 people:
2 Drinks + 5 Mezzas + 2 Sides = $123 (including 20% tip)
RECOMMENDED HEALTHY EATS… choices below are based on my knowledge of food and nutrition. Most dishes at Ilili contain a decent amount of Olive Oil, each tablespoon of Olive Oil contains 14 grams of fat. Although Olive Oil is known to be good for you with proven benefits, it is still high in fat and should be enjoyed in moderation. There is no online nutritional information available for Ilili. Please use your own discretion when making a decision.
|MEZZA – COLD|
|Warak Enab Bil Zeit|
|Romano Bean “ICH”|
|MEZZA – HOT|
|Black Iron Shrimp|
|Chicken Shish Taouk|
|SALADS – BRUNCH|
|Grilled Chicken Salad w/dressing on side|
|Grilled Shrimp Salad w/dressing on side|
|A LA CARTE – BRUNCH|
|Manouche Bi Zaatar|
|Manouche Bi Jibneh|
For starters we were served complimentary Seasoned Pita Chips with a Yogurt Sauce topped with Black & Green Olives… seriously, what’s not to love? I love pita chips, i love yogurt sauce (tzatziki), and I love olives! I ate all the olives since my husband and friends hate olives, one word, ANTIOXIDANTS!!! Well, I guess more for me! 🙂
All the Mezzas come with a side of Warm Pita Bread which was so yummy. The look of this bread reminded of the Indian Fried Puri, however the Pita Bread was baked, not fried.
My husband and I shared 4 Mezzas… we started with the Black Iron Shrimp which was cooked in garlic, olive oil, jalapenos, and topped off with cilantro. It was really good and light, the shrimp was juicy, tender, and garlicky.
We also ordered Falafal which are fried chickpea balls served with tahini sauce. The Falafal was just okay, a bit on the dry side, I’ve had better.
My husband and I also ordered the Baba Ghannouj which is pureed eggplant with tahini sauce topped with Olive Oil. This was so freakin’ tasty and chunky.
Since I was celebrating my 100th post I decided to order myself an alcoholic beverage. I went for the From Beirut with Passion which is basil-cilantro-mint infused Vodka and passion fruit. Doesn’t that sound exotic? Well, it was, and it tasted like nothing I have ever had before. I was able to taste all 3 herbs in the background… scrumptious.
My friends shared 3 Mezzas. They ordered the Hommus which is pureed chickpeas with tahini sauce, lemon, and olive oil. The Hommus tasted so fresh and creamy, I usually eat store bought Hummus and I was instantly able to taste the difference. WOW!
They also ordered Rkaykat Bil Jibneh (Cheese Rolls) which contains Feta Cheese. Now my friends loved this, however I didn’t like the Cheese Rolls because I have a strong dislike towards Feta Cheese, so I really can’t review this item. For those of you who love Feta Cheese, my friends loved this so it is probably really good.
Marian gave me company and ordered a drink as well, Phoenician Lemonade with Vodka, Orange Liqueur, Mint, and Lemon. She said the drink was, “not too strong, but good.”
Lastly, we ordered 2 orders of the Phoenician Fries which were absolutely sensational. I don’t care if you are on a diet, it would be a dishonor if you left Ilili without ordering these fries. They are that good! The sauce is amazing with a hint of garlic and it is probably the reason the fries taste so damn good. I think the sauce is made with Mayo with just the right amount of spiciness. Unfortunately, they don’t serve you enough sauce for the amount of fries, next time I will request extra sauce… just a tip.
VERDICT – 4.5 / 5
Ilili is by far the best Middle Eastern restaurant I have ever been to. This place has so much to offer from its incredible decor, to its sexy ambience, to its delectable food. The service here was great and the waiters are more than willing to explain the dishes to you. I loved that I left here NOT feeling disgustingly full. Although there was a reasonable amount of Olive Oil in most dishes, I still felt light and good. This is my third time dining at Ilili and each time I have played it safe with the items I order, you know the usual… Hommos, Baba Ghannouj, Falafal, next time I plan to go off the beaten path and order a few unfamiliar items. This place is a gem in the Flatiron district and it’s a shame I didn’t discover it sooner. You will not be let down, go to Ilili and “ilili” me about it. 🙂 OK, really bad joke!!! LOL!