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Ilili RW Dinner Review

  • g

Two of us went on Tuesday and I have to say I loved it which is not often the case with RW dinners. I also loved Jovia’s RW dinner last winter. The RW menu was huge, 10 apps, 5 entrees and 4 desserts to choose from which is the most from any restaurant I have ever been to, including Danny Meyer restaurants which typically does 5 selections for each course. Portions were generous, selection of 2, yes 2 not 1 of the apps, 1 entree and 1 dessert and we were stuffed with good food and very happy.

Service was very professional, they let us linger as we were catching up and I am a super slow eater. Everything was timed perfectly and I loved what we had. They even brought me a second cranberry/soda when my glass was finished, w/o my asking for it which did not sit well with me when he brought it, however I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was not charged for it which has never happened to me in a restaurant. Soda and iced tea are free refills, but never juice.

Anyway onto the wonderful food. Our 4 apps were: lamb sausage (least favorite); baba ghanouish with warm fresh pita, delicious; crispy calamari with some carrot slaw on the side, excellent; and thinly sliced octopus, absolutely wonderful. Entrees were blackened cod and beef shish kebob and desserts were trio of sorbet (coconut, blackberry, and mango) with diced mangoes and pomengrantes and something they called typical Lebanese dessert with pistachio sauce. I loved everything I had except the lamb sausage. Note if anyone cares, they use pomengrante in many dishes which I love, but others may not.

I will definitely be back. I think the restaurant is fairly new and was empty when we arrived but it was early. On our way out it was about 2/3 full. RW dinner is a wonderful bargain at a nice restaurant with modern and comfortable décor, great food, professional service. I highly recommend the RW menu. Did not really look at the other menu, but will probably go again to give it a try since we were so happy with this meal.

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  1. I was so nervous when I opened up your post, but I'm so delighted to see that you enjoyed your meal! I have RW plans to eat at ilili next week and am now very excited. Thanks!


    1. I just had dinner at ilili last night and thought it was fantastic. I went with a party of four, so we were able to sample a lot of different dishes:

      -Brussel sprouts roasted with fig sauce: the most popular dish of the night! The best brussel sprouts I've ever had, and we liked it so much, we ordered three servings over the course of our dinner
      -Manti, Lebanese pasta stuffed with beef and lamb: nice chewy consistency, rich hearty flavor, one of my favorite dishes of the night
      -Amberjack: thin slices of fresh, perfectly seasoned raw fish
      -Tabbouleh: the fresh mint was a bit too overpowering for me
      -Hommus: creamy but nothing extraordinary
      -Mussels: liked the garlic and pepper sauce, but I'm not a fan of mussels
      -Black cod: soft, flaky fish with interesting pomegranate molasses glaze
      -Duck shawarma: duck was rich and flavorful without being greasy or fatty, really liked this
      -Lamb kebob: meat was cooked and seasoned perfectly, another favorite
      -Pita bread: warm and airy

      For dessert, we tried

      -Achta: traditional Lebanese sweet cheese dessert with a thick consistency, similar to ricotta cheese, flavored with a combination of syrup and spices. I would recommend getting this because it was unique and unlike anything I've ever tasted before
      -Chocolate candy bar: layers of chocolate, was too rich and sweet for me
      -Steamed apricot pudding: very dense, and almost with a savory flavor. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would
      -Sorbet: we had passion fruit, blackberry and coconut and all were light and refreshing, with the fruit flavors really shining through. There were actual chunks of passion fruit in the sorbet, which I liked.

      I also had the Back from Beirut cocktail (light and sweet) and could barely stand up after we finished our meal, but everything was excellent and I would definitely go back!

      3 Replies
      1. re: KiwiGirl625

        Was this from the RW menu? I don't remember some of the items you listed. I love brussel sprouts and would have ordered it if I saw it. Did i miss it since there were so many to choose from?

        1. re: G3B

          No, it was on the regular menu.

          1. re: KiwiGirl625

            Well now I know what to order next time I go when it is not RW and I am looking forward to it, bec. many of the dishes you liked are my favorites.

      2. I'm going tonight and now looking forward to the trip more than before--thanks for your review.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lucia

          A friend and I went tonight for RW and had a really good meal. There are a lot of options on the menu, which was a nice contrast to most RW meals. To start, we shared: calamari (great); amberjack (fish quality was a little questionable); mussels (very good): and warm eggplant (good). My cod was the winner among entrees. Her branzini was also good, although a little fishy. I had the napoleon w/achta for dessert and she had the ashta. We both left stuffed and happy. It's a great space too.

        2. I am wondering what the atmosphere is like. Casual? Formal?

          1 Reply
          1. Tried to go for dinner tonight without reservations at 9:00 p.m., but it was packed and there was a long wait, so we left. I guess the place is getting discovered. I called at 8:15 p.m. and they said in a bored tone that they could accommodate us -- did not ask for our name, which led me to believe that getting in would be no problem.

            No biggie when we went at 9:00 p.m. and they could not take us - it was 45 minutes later and things could have easily changed. But I must say that both on the phone and in person they were snotty with major attitude. No thanks. The place definitely seemed trendy, which often seems to go with a lack of graciousness.

            1 Reply
            1. re: omotosando

              I, too, have heard the same thing about the service at ilili.


            2. Went for a client dinner last Thursday night, party of 8. They were very nice about offering us options of where we would like to sit--main hall or upstairs. We sat in the main hall--which was not as loud as I expected, even though it was quite full. It was definitely buzzing with voices, but I'd been worried the music would be thumping, and it was not too bad. We each ordered the RW menu, and then added 3 orders of the AMAZING brussels sprouts. (Thanks, KiwiGirl for the recommendation!) We shared a ton of the small plates. By far, the favorites were the octopus--thinly sliced and perfectly flavored, the kashkawan cheese with duck egg--excellent with the fresh pita, the baba ghanouj, and the previously mentioned brussels sprouts, which were so good I could have eaten only those for dinner and been happy. We each had our own main dishes. I had the branzino. The fish was very fresh and perfectly cooked, but the sauce (slices of blood orange, orange flower water, and tahini) was too heavy and overwhelmed the fish. I scraped most of the sauce to the side. I had the essmalieh for dessert, and I loved it, but my coworker was not so fond. It is flavored with rosewater, which I thought was unusual and delicious, and the sweetness of the rosewater-scented crispy bird's nest pastry was balanced nicely by the creamy yogurty custard inside. My colleague thought the rosewater tasted like eating perfume, but I think that was just his taste. I'd recommend this dessert. Everyone who had the grilled meat dishes raved, so next time I would order one of those instead of the fish (the person who got the black cod also thought it got lost in the sauce). The two other misses were the bread salad (which was more like a regular salad with some croutons that the fattoush I have had before) and the lamb sausage appetizer, which was overwhelmed by the pomegranate molasses . So a few things we were less thrilled about, but overall, a very good meal, everyone left happy and I'll certainly go back.

              It seems like it would be a great place to go for Flatiron business lunches, since it's huge and would be easy to drop in or get a last-minute reservation. At 8 pm, when we went, it was crowded, but I booked a party of 8 less than a week ahead. Definitely on the trendy side, and the service was a little spotty. The first course was slow to come out and it was clear something had happened to cause a delay, but they brought us three big plates of fresh-made crackers and lebneh on the house, which was nice. Waitress also twice refilled bottled water glass with tap, which was a little annoying, and the service seemed just a touch chaotic (things didn't always come out at the same time, etc.), so some kinks to work out in that area, but they were really nice and accommodating if we asked where things were and seemed very willing to answer questions and fix mistakes. I did not find them snooty, as another person had mentioned.

              I'd recommend going for a fun evening, a long meal where you taste a bunch of things, and just stick to the simpler things on the menu and stay away from anything that seems like the sauce will be too much.

              1. Ilili
                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