Saturday, February 06, 2010

restaurant week diary: ilili

So ... I had this fun night all planned out. Was gonna go to Williamsburg to dance it up at Rose Land Music, where my friend Monica's beau DJ JKriv (of Tortured Soul fame) and Lou Teti were doing the first of many Deep & Disco nights to come. But my fun evening got cut short with this:  


I've developed a weakness for bone marrow. When I was growing up in the Philippines, I wasn't this crazy about bulalo, our local dish of bone marrow soup. But it's life's cruel joke, I guess, that you develop a liking for crazy fatty things just when you get to the age when you're supposed to start watching your health. In any case, I am now a bonafide bone marrow lover. So yesterday, when I sat down for Restaurant Week dinner at Ilili with Jammy, Sancho and Nina, I just went for it. And thus, my downfall. But first, let me tell you about the meal ...

I was unconscionable with my ordering. Ilili's prix fixe dinner includes two appetizers, one entree and a dessert. I went for the bone marrow AND veal sweetbreads for appetizers, then had the gall to order lamb chops ($7 supplement) for my entree. The bone marrow was served with small pita pillows that you can break apart and stuff with the unctuous bone marrow fat for a hedonistic little bite. The sour cherry tabbouleh on the side was nicely tart and fresh, and a great respite from all the greasiness—but that salad is a bit of an enabler, IMO, because then you feel refreshed enough to dive back into the fat. It's a vicious cycle.

The veal sweetbreads were also delicious. The exterior was crunchy and the inside succulent. I loved that they were cradled in crunchy lettuce cups and sprinkled with slices of kabiss turnips because it kept the richness of the sweetbreads at bay. Again, the lettuce were just enablers though because it made me wolf down two pieces of sweetbreads. Sigh. Other delicious appetizers were the addictive baba ghannouj and the steamed clams soaked in Harissa butter goodness. Sancho also ordered lamb sausages but I never got to that since I had more than enough food to deal with ...  


Along with our appetizers, we were given a complimentary taste of Chateau Kefraya's wine. Ilili is showcasing a different Lebanese wine every week until February 21, so diners who are doing the Restaurant Week menu get a free pour. The red wine we were served was nice and drinkable, though not complex enough for my liking. I did get a glass though ($9) to go with my lamb chops. I'm not sure if the lamb chops were nothing out of the ordinary or I was just too full by then. But we all agreed that the appetizers were more noteworthy than the entrees. Nina had black cod, Sancho had the Ilili burger, and Jammy had the duck kebab.


It turns out that this $35 prix fixe dinner is served year-round, not just on Restaurant Week. But what I wasn't crazy about was their rule that the entire table needs to do the prix fixe. It was really way too much food for us, plus we weren't able to order some things that we were really curious about from the a la carte menu because we were just way too stuffed. The duck shawarma will have to wait another day ...

I would love to come back there to enjoy their happy hour. It goes from 5:30 to 7:30 from Monday to Friday, and they have a pretty sweet selection of cocktails for just $7 and appetizers starting at $5. I had The Fresh Meadow, which is a refreshing concoction of gin, elderflower liquor, mint, ginger and cucumber. What I want to have next time though is the potent From Beirut with Passion: a sneakily delicious mix of basil-cilantro-mint infused vodka and sparkling passion fruit. You can check out the happy hour menu here.

One more Restaurant Week post to come and then we'll resume to regular programming. My friend Céline was begging me to put up more fashion posts because the food posts as of late just make her hungry! Soon babies ... now off to Bikram Yoga to atone for my gluttony!



Ilili is located at 236 Fifth Avenue (between W 28th and W 29th Street), New York, NY. Tel. (212) 683-2929.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Celine,
I totally agree- the roasted bone marrow is the bomb. (Prune also does it really well). I also love the sauteed (braised?) chicken livers at Ilili; they're so good my friends & I mop up the braising liquid in the pan with bread. And the brussel sprouts are a favorite as well. -Aggie

the chiconomist ♥ celine said...

oooooh we were thinking about the chicken livers but went with the sweetbreads instead. I think I'm gonna do the chicken livers & brussel sprouts combo too! Thanks for the tip Aggie!

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