WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
In a time when the city is full of French bistros, this one is unique. The menu is unlike any other hereabouts, using offbeat ingredients in polished recipes. The many regular customers give the place a clubby feeling, without excluding newcomers.
The kitchen pursues an imaginative, New Orleans-tinged approach to French country cooking. Chef John Harris breaks away from the typical dishes and offers more exotic things--in every sense of the word. Lots of the raw materials--including about half the seafood--comes from far away. That alone gives the menu distinction. The daily specials are numerous and deserve priority attention before you peruse the printed card.
Harris spent some time in France in between gigs at Bayona and Gautreau's (he was executive chef at the latter), and picked up the inspiration for Lilette there. He was on the cover of Food and Wine Magazine in 2002 as one of the hot new chefs of the year.
The building is a fine old Magazine Street store, with high ceilings and many windows. The airy, loose feeling in the single large dining room makes the restaurant seem bigger than it is. The specials are written on a chalkboard above a few banquettes; both touches lend a convincing French bistro ambiance.
Hanger steak tartare
Raw fish of the day
Grilled beets with goat cheese and walnuts
Alaskan king crab claws with passionfruit butter
White truffle parmigiano toast with wild mushrooms, marrow and veal glace
Duck confit with arugula and Banyuls vinaigrette
Steamed mussels with red wine and cream
Sizzling shrimp with lemon oregano vinaigrette
Sweet fried beef short ribs
Potato gnocchi with sage brown butter
Escargots with mushrooms and Calvados cream
Spanish Anchovies with stewed onions
Eggplant crisps with skordalia and olives
Artisinal cheese plate
Littleneck clam chowder
Chicken broth with leeks, tomato, soft poached egg
Raw salad of Brussels sprouts, beets, fennel, Banyuls vinaigrette
Braised veal cheeks with baby greens
Hearts of palm with lemon
Roasted chicken breast with Brussels sprouts,
balsamic glazed onions, mushroom vinaigrette
Grilled hanger steak with fries and marrow bordelaise
Muscovy duck breast with satsuma coriander jus
Fried Kurobuta pork belly
Braciola with creamy polenta
Paneed black drum, verjus mussel butter
Grilled Hawaiian spearfish, satsuma-basil butter
Nutella custard with caramel cream and chocolate-hazelnut brittle
Quenelles of goat cheese, crème fraiche, pears, pistachios, lavender honey
Mascarpone panna cotta with strawberry sorbet
Chocolate brioche bread pudding, orange caramel
Prosecco float with blood orange sorbet
Ice cream trio and cookies du jour
FOR BEST RESULTS
This is an unusually good place to try dishes and foods you never heard of or tried before. Plenty of them are here, and the kitchen's skills insure a polished version of whatever catches your eye.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The tables are too close together. For a restaurant with such obvious innovative abilities, the regular menu is surprisingly steady.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +2
- Wine & Bar +2
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly