Leyla is one of Charleston’s newest pop-up restaurants on lower King Street. The first review I heard of the restaurant was a positive one from Mickey Bakst of The Charleston Grill. For this reason, I was excited to experience it. Leyla is a Lebanese restaurant so of course I asked Catherine Dawson to join me. “I love Lebanese food! I could live off humus…am I right or am I right?” Okay Catherine… see ya in 30 🙂
Upon walking inside Leyla around 8PM, I immediately noticed the extreme case of lighting going on in the restaurant. It was so bad that we stepped back outside into the night to re-evaluate the menu and if we actually wanted to stay. I am a huge atmosphere person so I really was already having negative thoughts about the restaurant. Catherine made a good point though and said that we’ll never know unless we just go in and sit. I agreed and realized I was probably being silly.
I will note that the Cha-Cha came out of me and as the waiter walked us to our table I couldn’t help it and said, “Yall really got it turned up in here, huh!?” His response: “You should have seen it before we dimmed the lights.” At this point I began to think I wasn’t being silly.
My next observatory moment was that the tables did not have tablecloths on them, but just the bare white plastic surface. Okay now you think I’m a snob. Hold on! This is fine, but I couldn’t figure out what type of restaurant Leyla was trying to portray. The silverware was rolled up in nice cloth napkins and the menu was not particularly cheap, so I was rightfully thrown off.
While grazing through the menu, I became overwhelmed as it is very extensive. There are multiple sections and so many unfamiliar Lebanese words. When our waitress came to the table, I had hoped for her to ask if it was our first time or offered to talk us through the menu. Instead, she just asked if we were ready to order. We both ordered a glass of their Pinot Grigio and then decided on their sharing dish which included about 10 different small plates from the menu.
Unfortunately our experience only worsened. Catherine’s wine glass had food on it for starters. Well I guess it was Catherine’s.
Susu: Catherine look at your wine glass
Catherine: Which one is mine?
S: That one (points to the dirty one)
C: Did you already sip out of that one (points to clean glass)
S: Yes (lies)
C: (sorrowfully dips napkin into water-glass and cleans wine glass).
Then when our food arrived, we had no idea what the different dishes were because the waitress just dropped them off and began to leave. I asked if she could please point everything out, but she couldn’t even tell us without guessing from the menu. Also one of the grape leaves had mold on it, the baba ganoush tasted burnt, the falafel was so fried there was no flavor, the salad was bland, and the fava beans had a scent that smelt like…lets just say it should not be said.
By the time we realized that our meal had turned somewhat comical and started laughing, we also quickly realized how quiet it was in the restaurant. There was no music! We felt like we had to whisper so we wouldn’t disrupt the 5 other people eating in the restaurant.
I really do hate writing like this. This actually was not a fun entry for me because my passion was in a negative tone. I hope that all our Charleston restaurants thrive and I can write awesome reviews and rave to my hotel guest about our delicious food town, but I really don’t think this restaurant will last. I will say though that Katie Nichols and Belinda Gergel have both been to the restaurant since and they both came back with great experiences. Hmm…If yall do try it out I hope you share your reviews with me!