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NYC Day 1: Illi Boy at Ilili


Two shuttles after landing at Laguardia, I arrived at my grungy hotel, the Latham on 28th Street. I unloaded and immediate began to explore the city on foot. With my virtual assistant, Gaila Curry of the Expert Offices, in ear on my Bluetooth, I soon realized that it had been over 8 hours since I last ate. Gaila then directed me to the Ilili a few blocks south of where I had wandered.

Upon entering, the mirrored foyer and walls dressed in golden drapery evoked images of a Mediterranean palace. But as a designer, I was still fascinated by the logo that greeted me as I approached the restaurant. It was simple, elegant and told the whole story about what was in store for me inside. I had the option of sitting at a traditionally set table, but I could resist the allure of dining in the leather lounge area beside the stone slab table tops. Typically, this is a setting for groups, especially because of its proximity to the bar. Nevertheless, I was determined to indulge in the experience for myself. And indulge I did. I opened with a traditional hummus appetizer, as my waitress advised me of the differences between the two main courses that I was torn between: The Lamb Chops and the Citrus Trout. She admonished that the trout was for those who were looking for something different, and suggested the Lamb due to its simplicity. My travel tradition is to do something different each time I visit someplace different. So, I ordered the Citrus Trout alongside a Lebanese white wine.

After grazing over the pita pillows and hummus, I was introduced to a frightening presentation of the trout. Not unlike the rubbish on the street when I first laid eyes on the city of New York on trash day. Also, the dish was so flat that I was afraid my appetite would turn me inside out at the dissatisfaction of finishing the meal too soon. . . This was all an illusion. As I dove into the inside of the fish, I saw that it was not only meaty, but meaty on both sides and dressed with greens in between. With the orange citrus cells, the fish was mild, yet sweet and tangy. Accompanied with the grapefruit citrus cells, the dish had the audacity to bite back. The citrus tahini underneath provided me with a smooth transition between the two contrasting experiences. A nibble of the crispy almonds also provided a much needed reprise. In aggregate, I couldn’t have asked for a better precursor to what awaits me in New York. My first meal was symbolic of the culture I would soon be immersed within. Thanks to the Expert Offices for the outstanding recommendation, and thanks to Ilili for such an enchanting prelude to my adventures in the Big Apple.


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