236 Fifth Avenue
New York , NY 10001
After being open almost six months, the modern Lebanese restaurant Ilili is demonstrating it is one of the finer places in all of Manhattan.
Located in a dismal part of Fifth Avenue between 27th and 28th Street north of Madison Park and Flatiron, Ilili is as much an oasis as any place in the Middle East. The large restaurant is on two levels, with the main level being the preferred location, although all dining areas are acceptable. The main dining area is divided by wooden panels between the lower bar area, and high ceiling large table section in the center and a more intimate two top table section. The overall decor is composed of rich wood, candle lighting which in an unexpected way creates a certain Arabian Nights feel.
The menu appears to be traditional Lebanese cuisine, but on close examination the ingredients indicate a modern twist to classical dishes. By encouraging diners to select small dishes (tapas style) two diners can compose a wonderful meal by combining six small dishes. Selections are varied including vegetable dishes, seafood dishes, and meat dishes. Terrific dishes include incredible Brussels sprouts, octopus cru, perfect black cod with incredible seasoning, spicy shrimp, lamb chops, lamb kabobs and duck or lamb shawarma.
The service staff is excellent, knowledgeable and efficient. While some early reviews of the service may have been accurate, the current service staff is outstanding.
The wine list while small is perfectly matched to the Lebanese cuisine. In part because the owner/chef is related to the Massoud's of Paumanok Vineyards of Long Island, both Long Island and Californian wines are featured. We had the excellent Paumanok Chardonnay which was perfectly matched to our most recent meal. Wine service was professional.
This is truly an outstanding restaurant, doing for Lebanese food what Anthos is trying to do for Greek cuisine, but doing it far better and much loser prices.
Ilili - Highly Recommended