Boxes inside of boxes inside more boxes. That’s the phrase I’d use to describe the decor of ilili, which is a ravishing, Escher-like jumble of wooden squares set along the walls of a huge room with cathedral-height ceilings. That complexity also marks the food, with each forkful unlocking another taste or texture. Lebanese in origin, the food is sophisticated and surprising, whether you’re digging into a plate of musky chicken livers cut by a brightly tart tamarind syrup and sided by creamy yogurt, or tasting one of the traditional spreads, which here, take the usual hummus and baba ganoush to another level. Do know, however, that most of the mezes (appetizers) are the same portion size as the main dishes and yet cost half as much. So make a meal of those and leave feeling satisfied, rather than broke.
- Pauline Frommer