UPDATE 2009: After multiple mistakes involving food allergy orders (egg, soy, fish etc), I believe Lilli & Loo and its sister Lilli 57 are safe primarily for the gluten-free community. As always, double check with your server or the owner/manager about your individual needs.
Gluten-Guide had written Lilli and Loo’s up recently and invited me to join her there for a GF meal. I begged off because Chinese food has been a no-no, er, forever; the cross-contamination possibilities are simply too great when everything is cooked in one wok.
Then Vanessa, celiac gal, gluten-free menu innovator/creator and daughter of the co-owner of Lilli and Loo’s invited me to lunch last week to give their new GF menu a road test.
Still, I hesitated.
This may not be obvious if you’re new to my blog and read only recent posts about my bopping around the city, seemingly eating freely around town, but I ALWAYS have trepidation about trying a new restaurant or a new dish. I mean, I ate at home before going to a black-tie dinner at the Waldorf last week because I didn’t trust that even at a Food Allergy Ball I could eat safely. I was happily surprised at the Waldorf's level of service and accommodation [Thanks Waldorf!] but that’s not usually the case.
So why do it? Why try a new dish, a new chef, a new resto? Even if it means I eat a safe meal at home and have a glass of Pellegrino with friends, I'm going out!
After a childhood of “I can’ts”, I want an adulthood of “I cans” in all forms!
Vanessa and I emailed about creating an AG specific menu which allowed me to try out Lilli and Loo’s allergen-friendly recipes, dishes, and training.
Over lunch, Vanessa and I talked about her long struggle with nebulous symptoms that escaped diagnosis until she met with the dream team of Dr. Peter Green and Anne Lee at the Celiac Disease Center. That was 5 years ago and many of her symptoms have cleared up, some have not. However, her diagnosis has helped her loved ones grasp her very real condition. Thus her idea for creating a menu that she could eat in her family’s wheat-focused restaurants was born.
In conjunction with Maggie and Alfred, the co-owners of Lilli and Loo, and the ones to talk to if you plan on dining there anytime soon, they three came up with a GF menu. GIG was brought in to do the training necessary to get on the GFRAP program. The GF menu has been kept small and focused so it maintains its GF and allergy-friendly integrity. Because Vanessa has celiac disease and understands the pitfalls of eating out, she is committed to the notion that any restaurant that has a GF menu must be a “safe haven” for those that want to dine there. Brava Vanessa!
Lilli and Loo’s allergen-friendly menu means:
-The kitchen is aware about the 8 major allergies as outlined by the FDA.
-Everything is made to order in a segregated part of the kitchen.
-They specialize in a gluten-free menu but can accommodate other allergies.
-There is no cross contamination.
-Every member of the staff, from the busboy on up is educated about special dietary needs. They are trained to be welcoming and understanding about those needs and there are no eye-rolls.
Here’s what I ate.
GF egg-drop soup:
Teryaki Pomegranate chicken, sauce on the side, natch:
Chicken fried rice:
My happy plate:
How did they do?
I have to say, they did really well on all fronts. My lunch was delicious, gluten and allergen-free, if not a bit chicken focused. That was probably because I didn’t tell Vanessa that I ate red meat. Regardless, I realized I hadn’t eaten fried rice in almost 20 years [17 years as a vegetarian, 3 as a GF person and a lifetime of fears of a contaminated kitchen where seafood lurks everywhere!], so I went crazy for the stuff. So much so, I went back a couple of days later to have it all over again.
Christmas Day, where am I going to be?
Lilli And Loo's with the GF chicken fried rice of love. Thank you Vanessa and Maggie and Alfred for creating a GF/allergen-friendly Chinese food alternative!
Lilli And Loo
792 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10021