I am always interested in trying new flavors and new types of cuisine, so when the opportunity presented itself to try Persian food I jumped on it. I prefer authentic Mexican food to Tex-Mex, I love Indian food and Mediterranean food and Laotian food and Japanese food. I’m pretty sure I would love Thai food if I could eat coconut and can’t wait to try traditional Korean food. There are a ton of options in Madison for ethnic food, but only one Persian food option – Layla’s.
Layla’s has taken over the old basement location of Cafe Costa Rice off the Square, but has spruced it up and given it a colorful flare. There are only four tables and one employee – Laila (yep, she’s the namesake but she changed the spelling to make sure it was pronounced correctly). Laila makes traditional Persian food, which hails from Iran. Layla’s menu offers two standing dishes and two rotating seasonal options. When I went we got to try the two standing dishes – Fesenjoon and Ghormeh Sabzi, both are served with rice.
The Fesenjoon is made with organic chicken cooked in a walnut pomegranate sauce. The chicken was beautifully cooked, but the sweet walnut pomegranate sauce was a little odd. I’ve never been a fan of sweet flavors mixed with savory dishes. On top of the odd flavor the pureed walnut added an equally odd consistency to the sauce. I really wasn’t a fan.
The Ghormeh sabzi is made with grass-fed beef, kidney beans and Persian limone slaw. I liked this one more than the Fesenjoon, but it was not impressive. The beef was cooked very well, but the sauce was mostly flavorless. I had high hopes for something with lemon flavor in it, but the sauce was almost nonexistent.
FOOD NOTES: Laila did a good job sprucing up the basement space, but her food was not my cup of tea. I love that she uses organic and grass-fed meat. The first dish was too sweet for my taste, and the second one didn’t have enough flavor. I left thoroughly unimpressed and will not be returning.