NYC FOODIE QUICK BITE: ILILI

(Ok, well this wasn't actually a quick bite at all. It was a feast. A feast of amazing, upscale, Lebanese/Mediterranean cuisine. I stuffed my stomach for you guys, I'm just trying to make everyone happy!)

I was invited to a dinner at ilili last night and will tell you this is a great restaurant. It looks great, the service is fantastic, and the food is wonderful! The menu is designed for sharing and that is what you should do. You should order a bunch of mezza, create unique and original bites, and stuff yourself with great Mediterranean fare and love. So get ready for this culinary adventure, these pics should get your mouth watering.

Start with the hommus ($7.50), creamy, silky, and delicious. Add some lamb and jalapeno for kick. Place it into the warm, fresh pocket pitas that come out with each order, and have a bite of joy. It rocks!

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Also, order some chankleech ($9), (feta cheese, onions, tomato, zaatar), and some tabbouleh ($11) (parsely, fresh mint, tomato, burghul). Put some in your perfect pita. Bite perfection.

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Maybe some meat tickles your culinary fancy, so try the kibbe nayeh jnubieh ($14) (steak tartar, burghul, onion, mint) or a succulent and tasty lamb rib ($20) with a sour cherry sauce and scallions.

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If you like sweetbreads, don't miss ilili's veal sweetbreads ($14) served in a lettuce cup with garlic whip, Lebanese brown rice, and cucumber yogurt. One bite, and your taste buds tingle with satisfaction.

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Chicken livers ($8) with lemon, pomegranate molasses, and sumac have a strong tang to them, playful on your palate.

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Warm eggplant with tomato, tamarind molasses, and scallions, will be the some of the sweetest and greatest eggplant you will put in your mouth. Delectable!

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Brussel Sprouts ($13), fried with grapes, fig puree, walnuts, and mint will blow your mind. A bowl of sprout love that would make even the most carniverous eater a happy camper.

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If you are a fan of lamb, you must order it at ilili. Lamb chops ($18) seared with zaatar salsa verde, and herb roasted tomatoes are sublime. I wanted to take these chops home with me and cuddle with them all night long. Lamb loin is also unbelievable! Tender, juicy, delicious, heavenly!

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If you can't get enough of this meat, throw in a beef shawarma ($15) with tomato, sumac onion, and tahini. Fantastic! Also, add some greenery with some sweet and wonderful snap peas.

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After all this feasting, you will of course need to order dessert. Your stomach, your mind, and your heart deserve it. In fact, ilili serves one of the most memorable desserts I have ever eaten in my life; knafe jibneh ($18). This dessert takes 15 minutes to make, and is pricey, but can feed a table of four, and is absoluteyl amazing. Filled with three different cheeses, topped with orange blossom syrup, some crushed pistachios, and some sesame pitas on the side, after one bite, my mind was blown. In fact, I told my dining companion, this dish was so memorable, I will go to the grave, remembering it. Order it!

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Another dandy dessert is the ilili candy bar ($10), chocolate kataifi crunch, chocolate ganache, pistachio and fig caramel, finished tableside with warm chocolate sauce. This was another winner to a truly memorable meal.

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So drop into ilili for a while, forget about life, and immerse yourself into the delicacies of Lebanon and the Mediterranean. You might get stuffed, but it'll be worth it. 

ilili
236 5th Avenue (bet. 27th and 26th)
New York, NY 10001
212-683-2929

www.ililinyc.com