Tag Archives: New York Dining

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.
Adam 1
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

Bhatti Indian Grill *****

Bhatti Restaurant

(212) 683-4228

100 Lexington Ave

New York, NY 10010


What sets Bhatti apart from the millions of other Indian restaurants in Curry Hill?


I went for dinner with my girlfriends last night and had a fabulous meal. It’s the perfect spot for twenty-something-year-olds that are just getting their start in the Big City–it feels modern and fancy, but it’s budget friendly, and the food is truly delicious. I will certainly be back….again, and again, and again!

[ Note: Order the Bhatti grill specialties rather than the curried sauce dishes. You can get Chicken Murgh Masala and Chana Masala anywhere in Curry Hill, but finding succulent and juicy grilled meats is a little more difficult. So order from the Bhatti when eating at Bhatti! ]

When eating Indian food, I always recommend ordering a bunch of plates to share amongst the table because the food is heavy by nature. The flavors and textures can also get repetitive if you order just one item for yourself. I mean, after 3 or 4 forkfuls of creamed spinach, you start to crave something with a little more substance! So we did a family-style Indian feast last night, and here are the highlights:

Indian Cracker with Sauces

To start the meal, we ordered one Vegetarian Kebab Sampler and one Meat Kebab Sampler. I was far more impressed with the selection of grilled meats from the Bhatti, but then again I am a carnivorous foodie! Highlights from the meat appetizer platter included:

Bhatti Meat Sampler Platter

Bhatti Ki Chaamp,  a succulent lamb chop marinated in traditional Indian spices and then grilled to perfection. Dip it in the spicy cilantro-mint chutney, and swoon….

The Tandoori Murgh, boneless chicken cubes marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and spices, was hands down the star of the platter. In fact, I decided to order another portion to accompany my dinner!

Tandoori Chicken Murgh

The Raunaq-e-seekh, which is a traditional seekh of lamb mince, flavored with herbs and spices with a colorful gard. 

My favorite Vegetarian appetizer was the Bhatti Paneer Tikka, which is spiced cubes of soft cottage cheese, marinated in yogurt and spices, grilled to perfection and served with bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes. 

Bhatti Sampler Plate2

For dinner we shared the Saag Paneer, which is a rich dish of creamed spinach and spices, studded with fresh cottage cheese. Put this over a little bit of the long grain rice, or soak it up with some fresh Garlic Naan, and you will be in heaven. The Garlic Naan at Bhatti is a-m-a-z-i-n-g by the way. It is served freshly baked with just the right amount of ghee and garlic.

Bhatti Garlic Naan

I requested that we order my go-to Indian entree, and my friends indulged me by allowing me to get the Chicken Murgh Tikka Masala, which is marinated boneless chicken cubes, grilled, and then stewed in a creamy tomato sauce.  I order this dish all time, and thought that Bhatti served a very tasty version of this classic Indian entree.

Bhatti Chicken Tikka Masala

I also could not resist ordering the Chana Masala, which is a dish of curried chickpeas, stewed in a creamy tomato sauce with onions.  It was incredibly rich, but so are most oil-laden curry pots in Indian restaurants.

Bhatti Channa Masala

And, lastly, we shared an order of the Lamb Rogan Josh, which was probably my least favorite of the curry dishes. The combination of the heavy meat with the indulgent sauce really through me over the top after having grazed on so many other rich dishes.

Bhatti Rogan Josh

Overall, I would recommend ordering

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Filed under Indian Restaurants, International Restaurants, New York Restaurants

Corner Shop Cafe ****

643 Broadway (and Bleecker)
New York, NY


I was preparing to photograph my lunch today (a couple of delicious chicken quesadillas), when my phone alerted me that I had “insufficient memory space” to store the images. Considering that I upload and delete my photos as I write reviews, this notification means that I am seriously behind on blogging (too much eatting, not enough writing!). I was forced to go through my collection of food photos and decide which images looked the most decadent, deleting the others that were not up to par. This sounds like an easy task, but choosing which images to part with was a painstaking process. Needless to say, my quesadillas were cold by the time I finally finished. In order to make space for future reviews, I will be backtracking a bit and intermittenly posting some articles on New York grub.

The first review is from one of my favorite lunch/brunch spots in NYC–The Corner Shop Cafe. Their menu is an eclectic mix of sandwiches, pastas, salads, and eggs but these often simple dishes are far from the ordinary here.  The Corner Shop Cafe has mastered the art of delivering the classics with a whole new twist, taking them to another level. For example, their PB & Banana Grilled Sandwich which comes on cranberry raisin bread dipped in french toast batter, served with honey and minted berries ($9). Clearly, this is not your mom’s PB & J!

Some how I fought the temptation of ordering this mastermind creation (along with the Creme Brûlée Dipped French Toast ($11)), and instead opted for a lighter lunch of Steamed Mussels in a white wine garlic sauce with parsley, peas, and tomatoes ($12). Let me tell you, these mussels were fan-freaking-tastic! The mussels themselves were plump and fresh, and the sauce was out of this world. The herb parmesan crostini soaking in the bowl was also a very nice touch and made the meal more satisfying.

My friend Sam ordered Brie & Basil Panini with aged tried cheese, oven roasted tomatoes, and prosciutto on a toasted ciabatta roll ($13). Again, a very common menu item, but executed perfectly. The ingredients were all very fresh, from the salty to prosciutto to the flakey bread, and the side salad was dressed perfectly with a nice light vinaigrette.

My other friend Ariana went all out and ordered the Truffled Poached Eggs on Toast Platter with two organic poached eggs atop grilled asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and drizzled with truffle oil served with grilled ciabatta bread ($10). A little bit of food jealous crept up on me when this plate was brought to the table. You know when you second guess your meal decision and get grumpy because another person’s food at the table looks better. Ariana was kind enough to fed me forkfuls every now and then though, so it lowered my post-order dissonance. Everything on the plate was fantastic and for the menial price of $10, it tastes even better!

We also all shared a bowl a Cream of Tomato Soup ($7), which paired great with my herb parmesan crostini. I highly recommend this soup because they only use enough cream to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. You can see by the color of the broth that the cream isn’t too overdone or heavy. It begs for grill cheese dipping!

Also, the prices on the drinks were very reasonable. We had a couple of Mimosas and a round of Chardonnay for about $10 each. I am looking forward to going back to the Corner Shop Cafe as soon as I return to the states!

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Filed under Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, New York Restaurants

Le Bilboquet *****

25 East 63rd Street, New York 10021
(Between Madison and Park Ave)


[food coma (n): the feeling of listlessness, bordering on sleep, that one feels after eating a large meal, often caused by a rush of blood to the stomach and intestines during food digestion.]

Ohh Le Bilboquet…There is just so much to say about this tiny French Bistro, which is packed with a big French attitude.  We all know that a certain level of animosity exists between the French and, as they would say, “Filthy Americans,” but Le Bilboquet proves that you don’t have to be in France to experience it!  The wait staff (all French…of course) are a group of beautiful (and arrogant) young men, who seem inconvenienced that they even have to take your order.  Essentially, you have to call them over for everything and this past time my boyfriend even caught himself saying, “Excuse me sir, can we place our order?”  That’s right, the customer asking the waiter if they can be served!!! A little backwards, no? Of course the supermodel looking man then put down his Sunday paper and came out from behind the bar to take our order, but it just feels weird.  Ohh and if you have questions about the menu, which of course is all in French, don’t expect much help from the wait staff…I asked if they had tuna tartar and he was like “of course, don’t you see it right here on the menu?!” (pointing to something in French, while making me feel uncultured at the same time).

At this point, you’re probably thinking that I messed up my star rating because all that I have done is complain…but Le Bilboquet does in fact deserve five stars because the FOOD IS INCREDIBLE!  The reality is that this place would not be packed with American patrons if it did not serve delicious food.  I always order the Cajun Chicken, which is actually orgasmic.  It is served in a delicious peppery butter sauce and is sliced down into small pieces, making it easy to eat.  Ohh and there are no bones, which is a major plus in my opinion. It is served with a small mixed green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and some of the most amazing french fries I have ever tasted.  The fries at the bottom of the pile soak up some of the buttery Cajun sauce and WOW, eating those is an experience!  I have also had the ceasar salad, which is very delicious.  However, the Cajun Chicken is a must have and even better, it is a huge portion!!

So, if you walk into this place and find yourself annoyed by the arrogant wait staff and the difficult to read menu, DON’T LEAVE!!  Just order the Poulet Cajun and I promise you won’t even be able to put down your fork to complain.  When the food comes at Le Bilboquet, the table (no matter what size) goes quiet until everyone has finished their plates.  Then to pull yourself out of the inevitable food coma, order a cappuccino or espresso (the cappuccino is amazing!!) and resume your table talk.

The prices are high (Cajun Chicken is $27), but the food quality can demand such a price in my opinion.

I have only ever been to Le Bilboquet for lunch, and the crowd ranges from youthful to elderly.  Lots of people getting dropped off in character town cars and as New York Magazine says, tons of “trust fund women with their little dogs.”  However, I have heard that the dinner scene is quite different and much more youthful because the restaurant plays loud “club music,” which makes conversations difficult. I’m young and that doesn’t appeal to me, so I will probably stick to lunches there!

Bon Appetitte!

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Filed under Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, French Restaurants, New York Restaurants