Restaurant review | Layla’s Kitchen: Delicious dishes, great value
Among Indian restaurants, Layla’s Kitchen is a hidden gem. Put another way, the terrific little eatery deserves more attention.
After a recent renovation, 2-year-old Layla’s — a mom-and-pop shop whose steady to-go business is facilitated by a convenient drive-through window — offers an agreeable-enough ambience. Along with a fresh coat of taupe paint, Layla’s simple, bright and spotless space features a decorative 3-D ceiling grid, friendly servers and an upbeat Indian pop soundtrack.
Great values abound on its menu of mostly Northern Indian fare. One of these deals is the mammoth samosa chaat ($4.49) — a traditional street-food-style appetizer with a kitchen-sink approach to garnishing.
The humongous starter is spicy, tangy, fruity, crisp and starchy; it’s a party in your mouth. A chopped-potato pastry is elaborately topped with cilantro, onions, tomatoes, various chutneys, crushed papadums and eggy chaat masala powder. Alcohol — such as a snack-compatible beer — isn’t offered, but the colorful dish pairs well with Layla’s winning chai masala ($2): frothy and milky hot tea fragrant with clove and cardamom.
If you’ve priced good cuts of lamb lately, you’ll know that Layla’s standout rack of lamb ($13), which is enhanced by fajita-style peppers and onions, is another bargain. Five thick and meaty chops, coated in an aromatic red paste, arrive exceedingly tender from a yogurt-based marinade. The delicious meat showcases a skill for grilling.
Ditto for the similarly prepared, even-bigger chicken tikka ($8) — an excellent and inexpensive dish highlighting smokily seared boneless thighs. I also enjoyed the modest-sized and sweeter-than-usual chicken vindaloo ($9) — which is topped with sticks of bracing raw ginger — but I preferred the hulking tikka.
Layla’s is a rewarding place to get your goat. Like most of the dishes here, the killer goat bhuna ($11) is spicy but not fiery. The tender meat — mine wasn’t a bit gamy, although I did encounter some pesky connective tissue — tastes great, but the complex curry sauce is the star.
Fashioned, as many of Layla’s sauces are, with ground seeds (such as cumin and fennel) and flecked with fenugreek leaves, the addictive sauce is fried in ghee until dark, faintly sweet and reduced and thick. As with other curries on the menu, the entree is served with laudably textured and seasoned basmati rice.
To guarantee that no sauce shall be abandoned on your plate, a nice variety of fresh house-made breads are available for mop-up duty. Garlic fanatics should target the soft and puffy but potent and crisp-edged garlic naan ($2.50).
For a hefty loaf that’s practically a meal, try the first-rate aloo paratha ($4) — a floppy, unleavened flatbread made with whole-wheat flour baked with curried peas and smashed potatoes in its middle. After being removed from the oven, the disc is quickly pan-fried so it arrives ghee-enriched, attractively brown and crisply dark-spotted.
The recommended Hyderabadi dum biryani ($12) is a smart pick for an economical one-dish meal that serves two people. (“Dum” refers to a method of slow-cooking in a covered pot.) Raw onion rings and perfectly cooked hard eggs decorate a large platter of fluffy basmati rice lashed with spiced ghee and pocketed with cloves and cardamom pods. Hidden beneath the flavorful grains are big pieces of tender chicken. On the side: house raita, scented with cumin and chaat masala, that is thicker and zippier than what you generally get elsewhere.
Considering that distinct, delicious and budget-friendly dishes such as this are pretty common here, if little Layla’s isn’t already on your list of “must visit” Indian restaurants, it should be.
What: Layla’s Kitchen
Where: 4989 Cleveland Ave.
Contact: 614-882-5522, www.laylaskitchen.us
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
Rating: 3 ½ stars (out of five)
Price range: $6.99 to $13.99
Ambience: A recent renovation has made this small but bright and spotless mom-and-pop operation with a drive-through window and tiny patio more inviting.
Children’s menu: no
Liquor license: none
Quick click: Excellent values and strong cooking distinguish this little cuts-above Northern Indian specialist.