LILLO & ELLA: New Life In an Old Space


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Lillo & Ella is a light, cheerful and casually fun tapas joint located at the corner of Ella and 23rd street, the previous home of the famous, El Gran Malo. Serving up “Asian foods at new heights,” this Heights neighborhood staple is all about small plates and masterfully crafted cocktails. I truly couldn’t tell you if it was the food,  the mix of early 90’s hip hop in the air, or the old school cult classics playing on the tube that will have me going back, but I will certainly be back.

Chef and Owner, Kevin Naderi, was on the scene when I visited and was there to ensure that every bite we consumed was cooked to perfection. He even did a little break dance, “2-step,” while we watched “House Party” during Happy Hour.

My date had been here before and decided that it was best for us to sample a little bit of everything. After reviewing the very concise yet complex menu, we were on our way with tastings from the various “bar bites”, “shared bites”, “skewers” and “mixology” menus.

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We started with the warm scallion bread and Kombu (kelp) butter, the charred brussels, 5 spice lamb ribs with cilantro melon slaw, and the miso scallop skewers. The Kombu butter was good and paired well with the bread. The scallops were “melt in your mouth” good. I was in heaven with every savory, toothsome bite. I think my eyes were closed the entire meal except when I was sipping my cocktails and watching the TV.

Though not in attendance during my visit, Bar Manager Aaron Lara’s list of “distinctively crafted cocktails” could not be ignored. The Buroung Mangaa Cobbler (manzanilla sherry, spiced rum, salted mango and date syrup) was served in a stainless steel cup with a stainless still straw. It was good.  Couldn’t figure out what was chewy in the drink, but our server Sebastian said it was muddled date bits. The drink with the pureed avocado was good and creamy. Can’t recall the name, but it’s long and contains a period. L&E serves punch during their happy hour and it’s “ass” kicking good. Make sure to ask your server about your punch option. You will be pleased with ever recommendation suggested.

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If you visited El Gran Malo back in the day then you know you have the option of street parking or valet. You also have the option of a newly fenced in patio should you like some outside eating. Lastly, should you simply overdo it on the food at L&E, there is a cross fit gym directly across the street, I am sure they will let you pull a tire to the car using your waist a couple times to loosen your belt!

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