Thursday, April 10, 2008
WOW- on many levels is my first impression of the soaring 30 foot ceilings in this moderern Frank Lloyd Wrightish space on 5th Ave near 27th Street. This is not a block one usually opens such an innovative and beautiful place. There is a loungy entrance with cushiony seating while waiting for your guests as you gaze skyward at the lovely blond wooden ceilings and rear bar as in this long and deep labrinyth like space created here. Once seated, I was twice told of the type of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fusion meze style food here, which I already knew. Initially, seated near the server area, the waiters were discussing the low number of guests present at lunch which was unprofessional and distracting. Any annoyance dissappeared once the food started arriving. Homemade pita with Lebanese olive oil and different salts arrived first. This spot has no lunch special and Ilili is an expensive restauarant so be forewarned. Appetizers start at $8 for lunch and sandwiches were about $14 and up. I ordered the warm eggplant with tamarind molasses and a deconstructed lamb sandwich with more warm wonderful pita. It was love at first bite with the eggplant being one of the best ever tasted, perfectly roasted baby eggplant with a lovely sweetness. The leg of lamb with house sundried tomatoes and cucumbers served with baby arugula was a flavor fest, tasting of coriander, mint, salt and other unidentifiable spices. Delish. The Lebanese chef owner of the former Neyla in Georgetown has an unorthodox approach to the food of his homeland and the Mediterranean region in general. The bathrooms are a posh affair and offer separate rooms with sinks and lovely mirrors. Desserts looked quite appealing though I was too full to indulge, but will return shortly for more.