NYC — Spring 2014: Food Journal (Day 1: ilili and Eataly)

Friday, June 6, 2014
Oh, hi! I'm back from my five-day jaunt in the Big Apple! And you know I basically spent the entire time there eating and shopping (really, what else is there in life?). I was trying to figure out how I would split up my food posts, and I've decided to do them by day like a "food journal" kind of entry rather than by meal, like I used to do, 'cause it seems to be a little more efficient. So, we arrived in New York late afternoon on Sunday, and for our first meal of the trip, my brother took us out for dinner at ilili, a gorgeously sleek and modern Lebanese restaurant. It also happened to be my first time trying Lebanese food:

Top: Tabbouleh and Jalapeño Hommus
Bottom: Brussels Sprouts and Mekanek

ilili is big on sharing dishes, very similar to a tapas-style restaurant, so we started with four appetizers. First, tabbouleh, a classic Levantine salad made of parsley, mint, tomato, burghul, lemon juice, and olive oil. This might be the only way I can eat parsley. For whatever reason, it tastes amazing in tabbouleh, but I kind of hate it otherwise. Great on its own, as a side, or stuffed into a warm pita (of which you're provided a big basket of in place of bread). Light and refreshing, perfect for summer dinners. The hommus is good, flavourful, silky smooth, and freshly made, but the addition of jalapeño (which is $1 extra) wasn't worth it in my opinion. We thought it might be puréed into the hommus, but no, it's just slices of pepper sitting on top of it. Unless you have a fierce love of spicy peppers, you're better off getting the hommus alone. Slather it on a pita, stuff it with tabbouleh, and you've got yourself a party. 

Now, I don't know if Brussels sprouts are really a big part of Lebanese cuisine, but they're having a 'moment' right now in New York City (yes, there are "trendy vegetables" in NYC — last time I was in New York, it was ramps — but my question is, who the hell picks what is gonna be the 'it' veggie of the season?) so you'll find them in some way or form on almost every single menu all over the city. But the way they make them at ilili is to die for: roasted, then tossed with grapes, fig jam, toasted walnuts, and mint yogurt. The combination of these ingredients is just... glorious. I could've eaten a massive bowl of this stuff and called it a night. A definite must-order. Finally, our last starter was Mekanek, which is sautéed Lebanese lamb sausages with lemon and pine nuts. Tender, slightly smoky, slightly spicy; completely addictive to eat. My favourite way to eat them was in a pita that was also stuffed with the Brussels sprouts. Oh, god, I die.

Mixed Grill

Lebanese Riz

Garlic Whip Trio

Our main was the Mixed Grill, which includes chicken shish taouk, beef kebab, kafta lamb chops, and lamb and beef sausage with ratatouille. It's meant to serve two, but since we shared so many appetizers, it was actually perfect for four. There was nothing on this plate that I didn't like, really. Everything was well-seasoned and cooked to perfection, even the chicken, which is notorious for being dry and tough in kebab-form. But all the meats were soft and tender, especially the lamb chops, which were just melt-in-your-mouth. They're served with a side of aromatic Lebanese rice which is mixed with toasted vermicelli and mixed nuts, and a trio of garlic whips, each one meant to coordinate with a different meat (my favourite combo was the mint garlic whip with the lamb chops, but they're all ridiculously addictive). I don't know whose genius idea it was to make garlic whip, but it should accompany pretty much everything. I could easily dip plain bread in it and have a grand ol' time. Don't know how I didn't have Lebanese food until this trip, honestly. 

Tiramisu and Ninsola

After dinner, we walked over to Eataly to share some tasty desserts. We got two cups of gelato (the pistachio is perfection here; those who follow me on Instagram will have seen my photo of it), and then headed over to the pastry counter, where we chose a classic tiramisu and a delightful pastry called Ninsola, which was the clear winner. It's a fluffy hazelnut mousse sitting atop a chocolate cookie bottom inside a milk chocolate shell drizzled with dark chocolate and tossed with chopped hazelnuts. Think of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate in mousse form... but like, somehow chocolatier and nuttier, but without being overly sweet. Basically, it's orgasmic, and if you're PMS-ing, you might need two of them. But then I wouldn't expect any less from Eataly. They recently opened a Nutella bar that we didn't end up visiting, but I reckon it's like heaven in there. It's on my must-visit list for my next NYC trip.

236 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
(212) 683-2929

200 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010
(212) 229-2560
4 comments on "NYC — Spring 2014: Food Journal (Day 1: ilili and Eataly)"

    I don't know that anything in Toronto can rival ilili but for a quick fix, you can go to Me Va Me. Basically the same spread, affordable with HUGE portions. They recently opened a Queen St. W. location too!

    1. LOL! I mean, Lebanese cuisine is similar to many Middle Eastern cuisines, so it's not like you wouldn't be able to find a substitution here, but I don't know if there's such a contemporary take on it here. ilili serves authentic Lebanese food in a sleek and modern environment, which is why it's so dazzling, ya know?

      But I do want to try Me Va Me, 'cause it sounds awesome. :D

  2. OMG I NEED FOOD NOW. I've never had Lebanese food before! I don't think there is a restaurant here...sigh.

    1. I've never had Lebanese food here, either! But I think it's mostly because I never really think about eating Lebanese food when I go out. Like, I probably wouldn't have thought of eating at ilili if my brother hadn't taken us there. I feel like every major city has some Lebanese restos... Look it up here!


Klik the button below to show emoticons and the its code
Hide Emoticon
Show Emoticon