Ben Kacmarcik is a man on a mission. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he's an up and coming celebrity chef who was recently featured on the Food Network's hit show Chef Wanted. He placed second and I honestly think it was the editing b/c you could tell who they wanted to win. I've been on many sets and I've seen it done many times. Ben was robbed but I'm glad he didn't win, b/c now he has taken it upon himself to implement his order of operations and systems at another amazing New York City restaurant.
That restaurant is Ilili.
(Here's a sneak peak at the interior. I don't want to show you too much, you need to GO.)
Tucked just under the Flatiron Building at 236 5th Avenue we have Ilili. A Mediterranean marvel located right in the heart of Manhattan. They boast a magnificent cocktail list that includes a Poison Sumac Margarita and a NOT SO Bloody-Mary that appears clear when served. Also, they have a plethora of spices from all over the globe, thus allowing Ben's creativity to shine through on the plate.
There's the Flatiron Building in the back.
Fresh Meadow gin / st. germain / mint / cucumber / ginger
Poison Sumac Margarita tequila / orange liqueur pomegranate juice / lime
Phoenician Lemonade citrus vodka / orange liqueur / mint lemon / orange blossom
St. Germain Cocktail cava / elderflower liqueur
From Beirut with Passion basil cilantro mint infused vodka sparkling passion fruit
Black & Blue Bubbles blackberry sorbet / stoli blueberry vodka / cava
Ilili is 3 blocks North of The Flatiron Building.
I had the Poison Sumac Margarita and it was great. It had a kick of spice and wasn't too strong. Just enough to take the edge-off during a lunch break in New York. Also they have really great Natural Sparkling water. Simple yet very effective.
For starters we had the Baba Ghannouj with eggplant / tahini / olive oil and a few pomegranate seeds for topping. This is served with in-house freshly made pita. It is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth and I've been all over the world. Ben is doing an incredible job at executing his vision. He sees himself as the grease that makes the engine run properly and smoothly. Ben incorporates a step-by-step approach. He's a cohesive unit inside the insane restaurant world of Manhattan.
Black Iron Shrimp jalapeno / garlic / cilantro
This dish is a great way to start your meal, especially if you're sharing. Sharing is caring and that's the philosophy at Ilili. The ambiance is warm and engaging and you can tell the place is ran by people who care and who aren't corporate drones. NYC is slowly being taken over and it's nice to see something like Ilili do well and remain successful in the City.
THE STAR of the SHOW
Here we have the Branzino Escabeche served with tomato / basil / radish and red onions in a light tomato fumet broth. Yes, this tasted just as great as it looks.
Finally we have the Pistachio Financier with banana ice cream / tahini fluff and topped with a sugar croquant. I can't tell you how many restaurants I've been to in NYC and this one is one of the best I have ever been to. The atmosphere is perfect and they basically have no competition; if you want fresh ingredients, a warm ambiance with great drinks and good food then go to Ilili. Ben Kacmarcik is doing amazing things on the scene with his implementation of an organic and natural approach. Ben is going to take partial responsibility with turning Ilili into a brand. They are looking to grow, and fast. I see Ilili having a sister location opening up sometime soon. Maybe in a neighborhood near YOU!
go to Ilili,
236 5th Avenue
New York, NY