TravelNoise: Leyla, New York City
Truthfully, New York isn’t short on Mediterranean fare, and it’s likely that you’ll find a damn good spot on just about every other block. That said, an incredible Mediterranean restaurant can sometimes be hard to find amongst all the “very, very good” joints. Well, I stumbled upon Leyla, and my world changed.
Nestled quietly on the upper west side, just a stone’s throw from the famous Levain cookie shop, Leyla is ready to offer any passerby an exquisite Mediterranean dining experience, and that’s an understatement, if anything. My guest and I walked in and immediately noticed the minimal, mid-century-modern-meets-rustic-family-home vibe, with varying textures of velvet and ratan. The floor was patterned in a way that I can only describe as “a chic grandma’s kitchen” and brings an earthiness to the restaurant.
Before we took a look at the menu, our host suggested we focus on the drink menu, which had a variety of options ranging from relatable to adventurous. We decided on the frapa mezcal sour ($15), which had mezcal, aperol, grapefruit, lime and agave, and the duman ($15), which combined bourbon, mezcal, ginger, and honey. The mezcal sour packed a punch and showcased its fresh citrus flavors while the duman was a hit heavier, though the subtle sweetness from the honey kept it balanced.
The menu offers plenty of options that include classic favorites and new, innovative fare, and while we had our eye on a few items, we looked to our host to steer us in the right direction. Our host enthusiastically suggested the three-cheese pide ($12), with Halloumi, kashar, mozzarella cheese, and truffle honey, the eggplant caviar ($12), with charred onion, bell pepper, garlic served with roasted sourdough bread, and the quinoa hummus salad ($13) with crispy chickpeas, cherry tomato, and balsamic tahini dressing.
The pide was nothing short of amazing, and boasted aromatic truffle honey, salty cheese, and charred, crusty, pillowy bread, while the eggplant caviar was smoky and reminded us of a campfire feast. The quinoa hummus salad had a subtle crunch of chickpeas, while the dressing was super light and creamy.
Next up: the mains. We landed on the falafel ($11) and lamb shank ($28), which both came out promptly and were nothing short of incredible. The falafel was paired with a tangy, creamy sauce, and was perfectly crisp on the outside, while the lamb shank was fall-off-the-bone tender, well-seasoned, and a little smoky, and paired with a creamy porcini and orzo risotto.
If you’re on the upper west side for dinner and want to really wow your date, don’t think twice about Leyla. Between the intimate, candlelit atmosphere and the fresh, comforting fare, you’ll have a night (and a meal) to remember.