Lil’ Gem, a restaurant inspired by the homestyle dishes of chef Melissa O’Donnell’s Lebanese grandmother, opens tonight at 29 Clinton St.
O’Donnell, who previously ran Thelma on Clinton and Salt Bar in the same location, has partnered with Lesly Bernard for this new venture.
The menu is made up of small, sharable and larger family-style plates. There are dips, flatbreads and a selection of shawarma. The flatbreads are served with various toppings such and roasted mushroom with pearl onion and crumbled lamb with truffled sunchoke and mint. There’s a whole or half smoked duck, whole fish, rotisserie chicken, Lebanese-style lamb chops and a roasted rib eye. There are several options for vegetarians.
In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, O’Donnell said, “I didn’t try and replicate traditional Lebanese recipes… Because I grew up eating the food, it’s more of an inspiration instead of going to a book and being like, ‘OK, what are the standards for this cuisine?’ It’s more like using the flavor and the feeling and the essence of it.”
Bernard has been involved in numerous restaurant/nightlife projects, including the soul speakeasy Tillman’s, the Asian-inspired Mr. Jones and he was an original partner in the cocktail bar Pravda.