I pass Ilili on my way to work every morning. I was eager to try this contemporary Lebanese/ Mediterranean inspired restaurant. Without a prior legitimate reason to fine dine mid week, I decided Restaurant Week, as well as my birthday could be used as a valid enough excuse to try it out.

First Trip to Ilili

First things first, Mediterranean inspired cuisine is hands down my all time favorite. I could eat hummus, fattoush, pita, grape leaves, lentil soup, falafel , and moujadara for the rest of my life and be happy. The flavors and combinations will always excite me and satisfy my taste buds. And all of Ilili’s offerings were no exception. I went with Eat Up’s Sustainable Eater, who would probably prefer another cuisine, but nicely agreed to join me on my birthday adventure.

Ilili

Located at Fifth Avenue and 27th street, just a few blocks from Madison Square Park, Ilili is a series of beautiful rooms with high ceilings, a great looking bar, and a vast menu that will overwhelm you in the best way. Meredith and I began exploring the menu, anxious to decide our first, second, and third course. Obviously I had already stalked the menu, and was pretty much ready with my decision – Kale Fattoush, Falafel Wrap, and I ended the meal sweetly with the Ilili Candy Bar. Meredith went with the Warak Enab Bil Zeit(grape leaves), Scottish Salmon, and the Labne Cheesecake. We also ordered a couple of cocktails, the Rose Sangria for Meredith and the Seasonal Spritzer for myself. All of it sounded enticing and exotic.

Savor the Pita

Our drinks arrived quickly, as well as our first course, which was all accompanied by warm fluffy pita, ideal for involving in every aspect of the meal. My suggestion would be to eat it alone, rip off a piece to dip in hummus, and/or use it to scrape up those last bites of anything on your plate. And repeat until all pita is gone. You’ll be happy I told you so.

Next came the main course. I was thrilled that my wrap came with the Phoenician fries, because I had wanted to try those as well. And boy am I happy, because these may have been the best fries I’ve ever had. The sumac and parsley flavor combination paired together perfectly on these fries. And even my “Burgers and Bourbon” babe Meredith thoroughly enjoyed her Salmon, exclaiming that the quinoa was cooked to perfection.

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Overall we had wonderful lunch at Ilili and I am already looking for my next meal there. Everything was creative and beautifully presented. A few other recommended dishes include the “famous” Brussels Sprouts, green lentil puree, crispy calamari, red mullet, fried beef kebab and probably everything else on the menu. To make sure you get to try it all, make a reservation, as this spot is ideal for big groups and parties.

*Pro tip: Call at least 2 weeks ahead to reserve for prime times

236 Fifth Avenue (27th Street); (212) 683-2929

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About The Author

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Healthy Eater

Southern girl at heart, minus the fried food. Fresh on the NY food scene, hungry for a healthy way to live in this food capital.