For many people, fast food means the Golden Arches or a food court; for me, it used to mean sushi. I know many New Yorkers who feel the same way. Unfortunately, after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, my sushi consumption dwindled. It wasn’t just the fact that I had to smuggle a bottle of gluten-free soy sauce with me into restaurants — I’ve been shameless about that. But sadly, it turned out that some seemingly innocuous ingredients in sushi were sometimes marinated in soy sauce, and that the fake crabmeat used in many maki rolls is made from wheat. Fortunately, Lilli and Loo has come to the rescue.
I’d first heard about the restaurant in the spring, when one of my favorite bloggers, Allergic Girl, hosted the first of her Worry-Free Dinners there. The first time I tried the restaurant, months later, I found that it offers great gluten-free lunch specials. The pan-Asian options run from Kung Pao chicken to Singapore noodles and Pad Thai, all of which are served with green salad (the non-noodle dishes come with white or brown rice, too). The specials are served Monday to Friday from 11am to 4pm and cost $10.95 each.
Still, dinner is what really won me over. There’s a long list of gluten-free appetizers (including tender chicken satay with a sweetly spicy peanut sauce) and entrées… and then there are the sushi rolls. There aren’t a lot of options, but what is on offer is special, like the Tuna Lover’s mix of spicy and fresh tuna with pomegranate vinaigrette and avocado, or the Black Angel’s blend of rock shrimp tempura and spicy tuna with purple basil. LIlli and Loo also gets points for convenience — since you can dine in or get your order to go — and for food-allergy awareness.
I haven’t yet tried Lilli and Loo’s new sister restaurant — Lili’s 57 — but I’ve heard that its celiac-safe sushi offerings are more extensive. Gluten-intolerant New Yorkers, get your chopsticks ready.
Lilli and Loo [address] 792 Lexington Avenue (between 61st & 62nd streets), New York, NY 10021 [tel] 212-421-7800 [web] www.lilliandloo.com
Lili’s 57 [address] 200 West 57th Street (at Seventh Avenue), New York, NY 10019 [tel] 212-586-5333 [website] www.lilis57.com