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.
I've been a fan of Lilli & Loo’s since last December when I was invited to try the GF menu. I enjoyed the food so much and felt safe enough that we had our first Worry-Free Dinner event there in April. Everything was delicious, natch, and no tummy issues from any WFD members to report.
Maggie and Alfred, co-owners of Lilli & Loo’s and Lili's 57 invited me to come try their new gluten-free menu at Lili's 57, conveniently located across from Carnegie Hall. They just received the GFRAP certification and said they are inviting a few of the New York City based GF bloggers for a test run.
At Lili's 57, Alfred told me that once he and Maggie started trying playing around with GF Asian items, they quickly realized that the new GF items tasted great, better even than the “normal” menu items. Alfred believes this is because they put some much extra thought and care into the formulation of each new dish.
I can tell you from first hand experience that not merely have the owners created replications of formally non-GF items like GF fried rice (which I order at least once every two weeks) but they are GF Asian food innovators (with a side of perfectionism): playing with new flours, new recipes and new ideas to create a new culinary experience.
As may of you already know, I’m intolerant to wheat, dairy and soy [even wheat-free soy sauce] and allergic to tree-nuts, fish, eggplant and a lot of the more exotic fruits like mango. So when I arrived at Lili's 57, Alfred had my whole list printed out and had prepared a very special Allergic Girl tasting menu which rocked my world.
**You don’t have to be a professional allergic girl to get this kind of treatment. Maggie and Alfred pride themselves on being accommodating, able to leave out ingredients or make necessary substitutions if given some notice.**
On the back of the GF menu there's an explanation about "Why GF?" and how they go about creating your GF meal:
We started with my favorite fresh Saigon Roll with two dipping sauces:
The first sauce is their normal one, on the sour/sweet vinegar side, with hints of mint:
Here’s a new sauce that Alfred made for me [no soy] that has some chili oil and a hint of spice, made from cilantro and lime. Looks similar but with a nice kick and the back of the tongue. I keep dipping my fork in the sauce in between courses:
Here are the dumplings they have been playing with. The filling is pork, just like the regular dumpling but the dough is a garbanzo mix. They are still perfecting it but I said, tasted pretty perfect to me. I haven’t had a dumpling in I don’t know how long. The dough was spongy, a little beany [which I don’t mind] and very dumpling-like:
Alfred wanted me to try this GF “sushi” roll. I don’t do sushi, obvi, and am pretty nervous about having anything made in that whole sushi area but I know how seriously Maggie and Alfred take the issues of cross contamination so I trusted that they would make this safe for me. The “sushi” consisted of GF sweet potato tempura, wrapped in sticky rice with sesame seeds and avocado. For dipping sauce I used the spicy cilantro mint since again no soy for me. It was delicious overall. The tempura needs some refining as there was a chalky texture but the concept was sound and they are working on getting a GF tempura right:
My favorite dish, Chicken Fried Rice, which needs no introduction. Mine was made with no wheat and no soy in a white sauce:
And then this dish which I called “dessert chicken”. Sweetened with sake, orange and orange peel, the dish is spicy from whole chilies and deep friend, like chicken donuts. It’s completely decadent. I had to stop myself from gobbling it all down as there was still more food coming at this point.
The first bite reminded me of the lemon chicken I ate as a child. This version for the aughties was lighter and more delicate. The technique is to deep fry in a cornstarch batter (if you are allergic to corn like Kelly, Celiac Chick, let them know and they will batter with arrowroot). The chicken is also deep fried in a clean wok with fresh oil for every GF person.
Heavenly. I had some for lunch cold, the next day, and it was still soooo good.
Overall, I left stuffed, and happy. No allergic issues that night, no intolerant issues the next day. Just happy happy.
Thank you to Maggie and Alfred of Lili's 57 for creating an allergen-friendly, gluten-free Asian dining experience that we can all enjoy pre-theater or anytime!
200 West 57th (on 7th Ave)
New York, NY 10019