Within the glass-enclosed constructing that serves as the crown jewel of D.C.’s waterfront Wharf progress, a brand name new Lebanese restaurant gives a visible feast before prospects even open up their menus. Within just the 4,500 sq. ft that make up Ilili, there’s a substantial limestone fountain that initially flowed in Provence, France, in the late 19th century. The effervescent centerpiece is one of the number of items of the restaurant that was not made in Lebanon. Citrus trees rise out of sq., green-painted planters. Suspended bird cages whole of steel doves with lightbulbs for heads float overhead. Daisy tiles covering the ground anchor the area with vibrant pops of blue and white.
“We tried out to make an enchanted back garden in the courtyard of a attractive house in previous Beirut,” chef and principal operator Philippe Massoud says. “This is not your Disney-design company restaurant. This is a restaurant with soul and enthusiasm.”
Ilili, just one of the Wharf’s most ambitious jobs to date, opened at 100 District Square SW on Thursday, October 7, with a menu total of modern day meze, saffron-infused Negronis, and Chesapeake touches like blue crab falafel fritters that can be additional to hummus.
Apart from its modern-day, glassy exterior, the standalone house is unrecognizable from its limited daily life as Mike Isabella’s French-themed Requin. To capitalize on its million-dollar waterfront views, Massoud absolutely demolished the inside to open up a sightline from the entryway to pier. An outside addition with substantial-tech retractable windows gives front-row seats of boats bobbing on the Potomac River.
Maximizing ceiling peak to 25 ft enabled the style and design team to go all out, which describes the jumbo hen cages that hover 7 feet from the floor.
“We desired to glorify them a little bit additional. It’s enormous area, so the cages became our lights,” states architect Nasser Nakib, who collaborated with D.C.-centered design and style studio 3877. Nakib jokes that except if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar walks in, “everyone’s secure.”
Nakib also developed the initial Ilili, still working right after 14 years in New York City’s Flatiron District. In that room, an amber-glowing dining home is dotted with handsome burgundy chairs that attract upon the Phoenician empire for inspiration. Ilili’s sophomore room can take a softer solution, harkening back again to the harmless, childhood days when Nakib and Massoud grew up in Beirut.
“Tragically, Lebanon is heartbreaking tale suitable now,” Massoud says. “It’s a nation that is hostage to the militia [Hezbollah] and the mafia, getting the political elite. They’ve robbed Lebanese folks [of billions]. It is bankrupt and folks are suffering a whole lot.”
Wanting to aid persons back household, Massoud sought out Lebanese artisans to style as a great deal of the decor as probable. That involves the copper foundation that runs below a 25-foot, marble-topped bar, hand-woven seatbacks in floral patterns, and floor tiles. Positioning the flight route of each individual hand-painted dove took two times on your own, Nakib states. The winged symbol of peace is a concept from the get started, with an graphic of doves and orange trees at Nakib’s stepfather’s farm welcoming visitors in close proximity to the front door.
Other private touches from Nakib incorporate a cheery, blue-and-yellow tile structure in the rest room which is modeled right after the wallpaper in his mother’s old bedroom. For a domestic contact, the restaurant employed preserved wooden from a Massachusetts tobacco barn to frame the bar. Indoor greenery may perhaps assist diners offset the winter season blues.
The 128-seat space seats 20 in a cocktail space and 10 at the bar. The Lebanese restaurant adds to a growing lineup of cuisines at the Wharf that incorporates possibilities for Italian (Officina), Mexican (Mi Vida), Spanish (Del Mar), Pan-Asian (Kaliwa), and French (before long-to-open up Bistro du Jour).
“The sights are truly majestic and I believe the reality it was unoccupied so very long it made a little bit of a dull corner,” Massoud states. “Now you have anything you require and really do not will need to travel any more — you can do a single country at a time.”
Massoud designs to acquire his staff on a excursion to Turkey, Istanbul, Greece, and Lebanon to explore Mediterranean record and cuisine firsthand when put up-pandemic vacation problems make improvements to. For now, he’s pleased with how his new cafe will impress site visitors.
“With all the negativity we’ve long gone through, I required to do one thing to flip it on its back, to arrive below and feel like you are remaining transported … [through] the area, meals and services,” says Massoud.