What has been one of your favorite restaurants to take a date to in Salt Lake City? Is Layla’s on that list? If you haven’t been, imagine a place that isn’t lavish, but simple and unique. Imagine a contemporarily styled place where tea lit candles decorate the back wall accented by a light blue hue. Can you picture it? Do you see the delicate curtains draping down from the wall? Now imagine unique and handmade wooden benches that outline the seating area. In short, this could be a perfect place for date night, although not exclusive to couples; family and friends ought to enjoy the scenery, service, and atmosphere too.
Intrigued by the fact that the tomatoes and basil came from Layla’s own garden, my guests and I decided to start with an order of Caprese salad. It was served napoleon style and drizzled with a smooth balsamic, making it a good choice for a hot night. It was exactly what one should expect in such a salad.
From there one of my guests ordered the Mediterranean crab cakes that looked perfectly cooked and were accompanied by a house-made remoulade, a fancy way to call an egg-based sauce made specifically for seafood, that just about wanted me to like crab enough to dig in. The presentation was nice and the kitchen got the dish out promptly. However, my guest reports: “As for taste, it was not very flavorful. It was not bland, but it did not have any “wow” factor for me. It was good, and it was filling, it just wasn’t amazing.”
My other guest is a big fan of small plates, because she wants to try a variety of items on the menu instead of committing to one entree, and decided to order the tabbouleh. She reports: “I was looking for a healthy option on the menu and this fit the bill! It was crisp, clean and fresh. It came with an abundance of parsley which was blended with tomato, onion, mint and cracked wheat. It was a very colorful salad! I felt the parsley was a little overpowering, and that the dish, although as healthy as it is, could use some extra flavor. I ended up squeezing some fresh lemon juice and salt/pepper on top to give it an extra punch.”
She then got adventurous from the tabbouleh and went in for the kibbeh – something she has never tried before. The presentation was a bit lacking, as it was just two meatballs on the plate (or rather ground beef croquettes) served with a steel ramekin of sauce. Sadly it was not so appealing. But you have heard the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover, right? So, she dismissed the plain boring plate and noted that “the taste was different than meatballs. It was light and slightly dense. I thought the flavor was a bit bland, but with the cucumber mint yogurt it helped bring out the flavor a bit and added some much needed moisture.”
I ordered the lamb shank, because it was the most recommended item on the menu. I was stunned when I got my entree. The plate was packed with under cooked Brussels sprouts, so much rice that I thought it was invading my plate, and a bone-in lamb shank. The protein was absolutely tender: I was able to separate it with a gentle tug of my fork. The flavor was spot on as it was loaded up with complimentary flavors of garlic, apricots, and exotic spices. However the size of the dish was ridiculous. I ended up having to share it with everyone at the table. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone in for the rolls that they offered to us before our appetizer. I suppose there are always trade-offs.
Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and was able to give suggestions with conviction. He clearly enjoyed working there and added a pleasant dimension to our meal.
Rating – I would be willing to return and have dinner in the bar or on the patio.