Tag Archives: International Restaurants

Ilili *****

236 5th Ave (corner of West 27 & 5th)
New York, NY 10001


I am the kind of foodie that seeks out hole in the wall restaurants,  loves eating sketchy street foods, and believes that you can get 5-star quality food from a truck. That being said, I also do occasionally enjoy going to hyped up,  “mega restaurants” in the city to determine whether or not they are really as overrated as the NY Times critics claim.  This past weekend I went to Ilili, where chef-owner Philippe Massoud is combining traditional Middle Eastern and modern Mediterranean flavors to create inspired and upscale Lebanese dishes. The atmosphere is nothing short of grandiose with seating for over 300 people, in a bi-level restaurant space that is broken up into multiple cozy lounges and dining nooks.
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My friend Liz and I took our seats in one of these little cubbyholes and began to salivate while reading over the menu. I asked our waitress to recommend the best three dishes on the menu, and without an hesitation at all she replied, “the Chankleesh, the brussel sprouts, and the Ilili candybar dessert.”Her confidence was convincing so we got started with an order of the Chankleesh, which is a creamy feta cheese combined with ripe tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and za’atar spices ($10). It sounds simple and it is, but every single ingredient is top  notch quality and each flavor is perfectly balanced. It was also the first dish to arrive at the table and in my starving state, it was anxiously anticipated and quickly scarfed down. I used the warm and pillowy soft pita to pick up the bits and pieces and tomato that remained on the plate and soak up the remaining oil and za’atar spices.
Warm Pita Breadedited
Finally our cocktails arrived. I ordered the From Beirut with Passion, which is a basil cilantro mint infused vodka with sparkling passion fruit juice. It is served on the rocks and it is the perfect blend of herbal and sweet, without being too fruity.
From Beirut with Passionedited
I preferred it to Liz’s Poison Sumac Margarita with tequila, orange liquor, pomegranate juice, and lime. 
Sumac Margaritaedited
Next to arrive at the table were the Brussel Sprouts with grapes, fig jam, walnuts, and minted yogurt ($14). Almost every table in our nook had an order of these, and I totally understood why after my first forkful–they are the absolute BEST!!  A unique combination of flavors that transform an basic every day veggie into a over the top Lebanese comfort food. So rich and delicious. In fact, chef Massoud posted the recipe on the website (click here for the link!)
Brussel Sproutsedited
Liz is into shrimp so we also split an order of the Black Iron Shrimp with jalapeño, garlic, and cilantro ($15). I thought the shrimp were a bit tough, and would probably opt for a different appetizer next time, as they were nothing special in comparison to rest of our meal.
Shrimps in Garlicedited
For the main entree we shared the Mixed Grill Meat plate for two ($64). We figured this would be the best way sample a variety of meats on the menu, exposing us to the greatest amount of Lebanese classics. The meat plate included chicken shish taouk, kofta lamb kebabs, and lamb chops along with a side of ratatouille and a garlic whip trio, which is a heavenly emulsion of oil and herbs.
Grilled Meat Platteredited
My favorite meat on the plate was by far the lamb kofta which is basically a Lebanese meatball that is rolled into the shape of a sausage link.  The word kofta is derived from the Persian word ‘Kufteh’ meaning mashed, which represents the ground meat (oftentimes lamb) that is then mixed with cumin, coriander, parsley, mint, onion, and garlic. I ate a lot of kofta while traveling in Croatia and these were just as authentic and delicious as I can remember.
Grilled Meat Platter3edited
The lamb chop was cooked to perfection and seasoned straight through. I was cleaning the bone shamelessly, holding the chop between my two fingers. The chicken was juicy and tender but not nearly as flavorful as either of the lamb dishes.
Grilled Meat Platter2edited
Herbed Oil Emulsionsedited
 Despite my feelings of overwhelming fullness (let’s face it, none of these dishes were light), I had embarked on gluttonous journey that would not be complete without dessert…..and two of them!
We ordered the Ilili Candybar3, which is a chocolate lovers dream plate consisting of rich chocolate ganache, a chocolate Lebanese ice cream with hints of caramel and fig, and a white chocolate sesame sauce with crumbles of pistachio ($12).
Ilili CnadyBar3edited
Ilili is known for this dessert and chocoholic Liz looked like she was having an out of body experience with each bite, but I seemed to prefer the Labne Cheesecakes which were rich, smooth, and creamy ($10).
Overall the meal was one of the best dining experiences of my life from the food to the atmosphere to the service. The service is impeccable by the way. The wait staff knows the menu inside and out, which is incredibly important at ethnic restaurants, and they can help any indecisive dinner arrive at a good ordering decision. Your water glass will never go empty an the delicious pita basket will be refilled continuously throughout the meal. I had no expectations for Ilili because I really hadn’t read any reviews prior to my meal there (very unusual for me….as I normally like to get acquainted with menu pages and yelp reviews before I dine somewhere new), but I left feeling justified with every penny spent. A perfect meal at a reasonable price. I cannot wait to go back!

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Filed under Bars, Brunch, Cocktails, Dessert, International Restaurants, Mediterranean Cuisine, New York Restaurants

La Brigada ***

Estados Unidos 465
San Telmo, Buenos Aires
(+54) 11 4361.5557


Lets face it, you’re going to get a good piece of steak no matter where you decide to eat in BA (I would honestly consider beef the cultural glue here…like music is to New Orleans). But if you’re on the hunt for the absolute best parrilla in terms of atmosphere, service, and quality of food–as most visiting tourists are–then you will certainly stumble across the name La Brigada at some point in your search (albeit be on Google, at  your hotel concierge, or local word of mouth).

Located in the heart of San Telmo and filled with gaucho/futbol memorabilia (all Boca, of course!), La Brigada is considered a major contender for the title of best parrilla in Buenos Aires, competing alongside Cabana las Lilas, Don Julio, and La Cabrera, just to name a few. One unique feature that has helped to set La Brigada apart from the rest, is that they serve the steak by cutting it with a spoon–a testament to its tenderness. Naturally, upon hearing word of this, I went to witness it myself!

The atmosphere of the place is very old-school, not dingy in any way, but broken in (as all well-loved things are). Images of cows and futbol players hang side-by-side on the walls, and crisp white linens and shiny crystal glasses adorn the tables. Upon entry, you will submit your senses to the heavenly and pungent aroma of steak, which will have you smacking your lips in anticipation of your meal. Cue the ordering frenzy!

My friends and I started our dinner off with a nice bottle of Rutini Malbec and then embarked on the delicious and abundant bread basket. Next we shared an order of Provoleta, which is a wedge of provolone cheese gilled in a cast iron skillet until it turns a delicious golden color at the edges. The provoleta was served nice and hot, and I thought it was very tasty. Although, I must admit I tend to like mine with a little more “umph.” You know, sautéed onions, peppers, and herbs (I acknowledge that it’s not traditional, but I am a modern and progressive 22-year old).

Next we ordered a simple Mixed Green Salad with Tomatoes and Onions, tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. A salad is a salad, need I say more?

Now we get to the stuff that really matters…..the STEAK! My friend and I decided to share the whopping 30-ounce Baby Beef (mainly because this is the cut rumored to be served with a spoon…I’m a sucker for presentation) and it was enormous! Note: The portion below is on my half of the steak!

Unfortunately though, they did NOT cut it with a spoon. Not my meat, not no ones, which was a rather big disappointment. The quality of the beef, however, was incredible. It was a couple of inches thick, with just the right amount of marbled fat, and it was cooked to perfection. I asked for it medium and it actually came out medium (this is to say as American’s would define medium). I have found in Buenos Aires that they often overcook the meat, so to see red drippings on the plate when I finished was a refreshing change.

Two of my other friends ordered the Bife de Lomo in Peppercorn Sauce, which was an absolute disaster. The peppercorn sauce had some sort of metallic aftertaste (almost inedible) and the steak was completely overdone, despite their requests for medium-rare temperature. A french chef would have been appalled seeing a steak with absolutely no red hue. In fact, it was so bad that neither of them finished their meals. And it is this inconsistency between a fabulous steak and a horrendous steak that leaves La Brigada with just 3 out of 5 stars.

The Potatoes au Gratin (or shall i say, Batatas a Gratinada) were fantastic though!!! They were creamy, and cheesy, and probably my favorite part of the meal. They came as an unexpected complimentary side to the Bife de Lomo, but were large enough to share among the entire table. Likewise, the French Fries were also very tasty!

My other friend (already a getting a little tired of beef), decided to order the Chicken Parmesan (or Milanesa Suprema Napolitana de Pollo). Given the size (which you can see below), she  was able to spare me a couple of bites and I thought it was delicious. I wouldn’t normally order chicken at a well known steakhouse, but I was impressed by the dish.

Last but not least, we ordered a Creme Brûlée  and round ofcafe con leches for dessert. The creme brûlée was spot on and a perfect way to end our meal.

Overall, I would be willing to give La Brigada another chance because half of the meal was great, but I do prefer La Cabrera and Cabana las Lilas as it stands right now (and I plan to try Don Julio this coming week to make my final judgement!).

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Filed under Buenos Aires Restaurants, International Restaurants

Las Adelitas *****

(+420) 222-542-031
Amerika 8, Vinohrady
Prague, Czech. Republic


Pop on your sombrero and pump out the tequila, because this place knows how to do Mexican grub RIGHT!

When I first arrived in Prague this summer, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I figured that there was a famous bridge, an arc de triumph, and a few beautiful cathedrals (as this goes pretty much without saying in all European cities), but I certainly did not anticipate that I would find the most incredible and authentic Mexican food tucked away in landlocked, Central Europe.

And then I met Fernando.

Fernando is a food enthusiast from California, that decided to settle in Prague and open up Las Adelitas Cocina Mexicana with a few of his friends. My friends and I were lucky enough to meet this crew out at the bar on one of our first nights in Praha, and after a few good beers and some drunken Macarena dance moves, we got an invite to have dinner at the restaurant later in the week (while watching a couple of futbol games, of course!). Now I am always down for Mexican grub, but I was particularly excited for this meal, having consumed nothing but dumplings and goulash the previous five days.

The Macarena Dancing....I was not kidding!

When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a large table covered in assorted plates of food and I became truly beside myself. We were given a sampling of almost every style dish on the menu (my dream come true)!! We started with homemade tortilla chips accompanied by salsa verde and salsa Adelitas (red salsa), as well as Cilantro infused Guacamole. The chips were fresh and crunchy and the Guacamole was delicious, with large chunks of chopped tomato and onion.

Cue the first round of drinks–Margaritas!

Margaritas on the rocks and by the pitcher! Absolutely amazing with a spicy pepper rimmed glass!

Next we shared an order of Chicken Nachos with shredded tinge chicken, melted cheese, jalapeños, salsa verde, black beans, and sour cream. Finally, a nacho platter done right: no pump cheese in sight, a proper serving of chicken, and an even distribution of toppings. Nothing artificial on the plate. Ohh, and the homemade salsas, take this classic dish over the top!

Cue next round of drinks–Tequila shots!

Las Adelitas has a ridiculous selection of imported tequilas that will have you singing La Vida Loca as you stumble on out the door.

The next thing we ate were the Flautas–3 crispy corn tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken stew “Tinga,” topped with melted cheese, sour cream, pickled red onion, and fresh lettuce. The chicken was very tender and the juices in the stew helped to keep the meat moist, compared to regular shredded chicken. I had never had meat “Tinga-style” before Las Adelitas, but I quickly fell in love with the spicy and smokey chipotle flavors. This spice was subdued and nicely contrasted by the sour cream and cheese garnish!

After the flautas were polished off, we began noshing on an assortment of Quesadillas; (1) Quesadillas de Tinga with stewed shredded chicken, onion, and tomato, (2) Quesadillas de Cochinita with achiote marinated pork meat, and (3) Quesadillas Vegetarianas with season mushrooms. All of the quesadillas were made with homemade corn tortillas, topped with sour cream and cheese, and served with refried beans and rice!  I’d have to say that my favorite quesadilla was the pork-filled one, which was followed by the vegetarian option, as the mushrooms were a nice change-up of flavor.

The homemade tortillas were really what made this dish special though. It seems that the quality of Mexican food (especially in America) is going to shit anymore; pump cheese is taking over, meat quality is deteriorating so burritos can be made larger and for cheaper, salsas are jarred, and chips and tortillas are no longer a made on site. Las Adelitas has preserved the art of homemade corn tortillas, delivering a truly authentic cuisine to their diners.

Cue next round of Margaritas (and one foot on the floor at bedtime!)

Next we sampled some Crispy Corn Tostadas, one of which was topped with stewed chicken Tinga and the other which was topped with Achiote marinated pork meat. They were both garnished with pickled red onion, and accompanied by a serving of seasoned rice and refried beans. I am a sucker for all things pork, so I gravitated towards that one in terms of preference, but both were phenomenal. The meat was very, very tender and well-seasoned.

All in all, we had an incredible meal and an unforgettable night! If you are lucky enough to be in Prague, definitely go check out Las Adelitas (they even deliver!).

I would not hesitate to make the statement that Las Adelitas is hands down the BEST Mexican grub I have ever had the privilege of eating. Worth another trip to Prague!

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Filed under Cocktails, International Restaurants, Mexican Restaurants