Hot Eats: Layla

A welcome addition to The Grove, this new Lebanese restaurant is easy to love.

 

There’s nothing better than enjoying the perfect patio meal on a balmy summer evening. And, there’s no better place to indulge than The Grove’s newest eatery, located in the former Five space. Layla is a delightful departure from The Grove’s nightspots and tapas destinations, with a tasty array of Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes.

Ethnic Eats
The restaurant is minimally adorned, yet it manages to make you feel right at home. Given the dine-on-a-dime prices, you’re willing to forget the austerity and focus on the food—which deserves your full attention. The menu seamlessly blends classic Mediterranean items with a handful of authentic Lebanese dishes. Hummus glowing with olive oil and a side of pita bread…baba ganoush blended with fresh eggplant…and the traditional tabbouleh appetizer of bulgar, tomatoes and parsley are just a sampling of the cold appetizers, in addition to hummus toppedwith a well-seasoned beef tenderloin. Also at the top of the must-try list is the eggplant salad with delicately fried eggplant and a balanced blend of garlic and bell peppers, and an appetizer called Warak Inab, similar to a Greek dolma.

Moving on to hot appetizers, you’ll take notice of items like falafel, featuring five lightly fried chickpea balls served hot with a garlic yogurt dipping sauce, and the Sambusic, a delicious Lebanese staple of fried dough shaped into a mini calzone and stuffed with options like cheese, spinach or ground beef with pine nuts and onions. The Natural Grilled Cheese, as so listed on the menu, is a welcome new experience made unique by its savory halloumi cheese, grilled and served with cucumber and tomato. Entrées are well-portioned and include the standby falafel sandwich and kabob options with chicken or beef, but there’s also an excellent lamb chop dish that makes good use of tender center-cut lamb marinated in olive oil. Baked eggplant in tomato sauce and a grilled shrimp entrée with basmati rice and fresh carrots also offer hearty options for dinner.

Host with the Most
One thing of note about Layla is the hospitality and wait staff. In a word, perfect. After my first visit, I was so impressed that I returned with my family in tow, who are not as familiar with the style of cuisine, but enjoyed every ounce of the evening—from our server, who answered all of our menu questions with enthusiasm, to the 7pm belly dancer performance to the delicious baklava dessert, made with sweet rose water instead of honey. A diamond in the rough, no doubt, I’ll definitely be returning again soon.

 

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Layla in the Grove

 

Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg

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