Between Lon’s acupuncture appointment and ballroom dancing lessons (for our first dance), we had to squeeze in a quick dinner. Unfortunately, we were in that area, I call the culinary black hole, around the upper 20s by Fifth Avenue. To our great surprise, we found a diamond in the rough, Ilili Ilili. This very large and newly renovated Lebanese restaurant just opened in November and I haven’t heard anything about it. The injustice!

Well, we didn’t have much time this evening but we rushed through a dinner and the staff was very accommodating. They start you off with some complimentary labne (strained yogurt) and olives. Lon loved the olives while I licked up the Lebanese yogurt. I seriously love Middle Eastern and Greek yogurts. They must laugh at Dannon over there.

The Shishito Bi Labne was so delicious and nothing like anything I’ve had before. It seems simple, shishito peppers and onions baked in labne, in a cast iron dish, which keeps it hot throughout the meal. The varying heat of the peppers contrasting the thick creamy yogurt was such a draw for me, slathered on to the pita.

The house-made pita isn’t even that good, just mediocre, but I ate a lot anyway, as transportation for the Shishito Bi Labne to my mouth.

The Black Cod sauteed with dried Zaatar, pomegranate molasses and fennel, was recommended by our waitress. It was incredibly tender and flaky, perfectly seasoned, atop some slightly sweetened braised fennel. We both oo’d and ahh’d.

The Sardines were bony as always, a little plumper than average, but otherwise pretty standard in texture in flavor. There was a phenomenal gremolata-like mixture served on the side, made with lemon and/or lime zest ( I think), that was the highlight of the dish.

Manti, a Lebanese pasta dish stuffed with beef and lamb and covered in minted yogurt, was made so elegantly here. We first experienced this dish at Ali Baba, but thought it was quite heavy. Here, the yogurt is presented as a foam on top of the ravioli and sauce, making the dish seem substantially lighter.

These ravioli are not like the Italian kind. Here, the dough is a very thin, barely noticeable layer, surrounding little meatballs.

Lon’s favorite dish was the Duck Shawarma, presented as wraps. The meat was tender and well seasoned. The pairing of fig, pomegranate, and garlic was wonderful. One wrap was rather dry oddly, since the other wasn’t.

Lon and I had to rush this meal but were still glad to have found this place. So I can’t pronounce the name, but four out of five dishes were a hit! We’re definitely planning on coming back for a more relaxed dinner where we can really enjoy all this good, and rather unique food. Hopefully, we’ll be coming in a group so we can try more dishes. We both agreed that we’d like to order most of these dishes again.

posted by jessica at 11:24 PM Filed under Middle Eastern, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.