Beirut of the Matter: Ilili Chef Philippe Massoud Brings Upscale Lebanese Dining to Flatiron

20130316_Philippe_Massoud_373Q: What is your favorite dish at Ilili?

A: Ugh, that’s a tough choice … The steak tartare.

Q: You’ve worked for many years as a restaurant consultant. Are there any keys to making a great restaurant?

A: First of all, there is no magical equation to a success. I’d say bring something missing to the market; if it’s already on the market, it better be the best goddamn thing out there! If you’re not opening to be the best, don’t open at all.

Q: How do you balance formal dining with the intimacy of Lebanese cuisine at Ilili?

A: I think, first of all, fine dining is actually eating mezza because if you look at the portions, you’re in essence eating small pieces. The only difference is a linear versus social mezza. The whole point is that it breaks the ice and brings out the community in a group, and that can work in a refined or a casual setting. The menu is vast enough that our guest can steer their meal towards a formal or a social affair, each table is like a mini restaurant, and they decide how they want their restaurant experience to go. I’ve had U.S. presidents dine here, and bachelorette parties that would be censored in any normal circumstances. It really is a restaurant for all occasions.