During New York Fashion week, Kelley Blevins who does the PR for Ilili (a contemporary Lebanese restaurant at 5th ave. and 28th street) introduced me to the spot for the first time. I sampled an assortment of incredibly delicious hummus, baba ghannouj, tuna kabob, brussels sprouts with caramelized grapes, shwarmas, et al. I was stunned at how tasty everything was and shocked that I wasn’t familiar with the Philippe Massoud-owned restaurant despite it being opened for over a year and a half.
I was itching to return to Ilili before I left for LA and arranged a small dinner with a couple university friends last night. Firstly I’m totally taken in by the stunning wood and glass interior that’s described as “Old Lebanon” style but I can’t help but think it’s an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright with all the paneled wood in warm palettes spanning 30 foot high ceiling. The crowd is a mash up of Middle Eastern types, post-work professionals and increasingly a celebrity and fashion following. Yesterday before my visit Uma Thurman and Lorraine Bracco dined at the hot spot and the last few weeks alone have seen Monica Bellucci, Vincente Cassel, Natalie Portman, John Malcovich, Tinsley Mortimer and The Queen of Jordan. Franca Sozzani even sponsored a L’Uomo Vogue event there during fashion week.
Bold-faced names aside, in NYC, it’s relatively easy to find a good Italian restaurant (Emilio Ballatto is my fave) or Japanese (love Japonica) but when it comes to more exotic fare, say of the Middle Eastern variety, a good selection is less obvious. I’ve been chronicling my dining experiences on these pages for over a year so you should know that I fancy myself a foodie. Well, let’s just say I loath bad food and if there’s one thing I splurge on its fine dining. Run; don’t walk to Ilili. And inquire about the private dining/party rooms upstairs.