Wedged between Flatiron and Koreatown near Madison Square, ilili, which is billed both specifically as Lebanese and generally as Mediterranean, turns out seriously delicious tapas-sized plates.
Warm, calm, softly modern and for NYC, quite spacious. Good spot for conversation without screaming.
I won’t drone on about each of the 10 dishes but the highlights for me were …
Strawberry Aleppo Margarita: I love fruit and pepper in the same glass. Fruit from the muddled strawberry blends and is electrified by the tequila and Aleppo pepper; contrasting salt rim adds dimension.
Beef Kibbeh: Different prep than I’ve found in the middle east. This is more a dumpling; spiced beef with hints of onion, garlic and pine nuts stuffed into a casing of what tasted like finely ground kasha, fried greaselessly then served with a cooling yogurt sauce.
Lamb Meatballs: Gorgeous sumac-spiked tomato sauce infused the dense lamb spheres, which should only be picked up with the fresh baked pita.
Unassuming, knowledgeable, good judges of pace.
Reasonable. 10 plates, 4 drinks, $160
ilili’s heavy use of sumac and aleppo may cause some people to think Syrian origins while others may think Lebanese. Culinary distinctions are difficult to partition into countries when talking about the middle east but this does not detract from ilili’s net effect – a good dining experience.
Lunch: 28 Sept 2013
ilili | 236 5th Ave | NYC 10001