The French Connection

Take a schlep out to Montgomery County to try this quaint little bistro with chef extraordinaire Sam Jacobson, who brought his signature skills to Jenkintown (the town where Russ resided before we shacked up together 😉  The place? Shabby chic Leila’s Bistro, an ambitious 28-seat BYOB serving innovative French-inspired American fare. (It’s previous life was an optometrist’s digs.)

LEILA: Name of Arabic origin, and means “night beauty”. An exotic, beautiful, caring name—describing a beautiful woman, who has charm and class.

Good friend and previous coworker with Russ, Lorraine “Witty” Winsey suggested we pick the venue so we researched convenient destinations somewhere between her place of residence and ours. Russ immediately thought of a restaurant he’s been itching to try that garnered great reviews with an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. With Lorraine’s blessing, reservations at Leila’s were made for the Friday of Labor Day weekend.

Situated on a street corner with one small sidewalk bistro table, it’s not exactly an ideal al fresco dining experience, so we ventured in and were offered a choice of tables. You have to understand, for most of the second half of the summer, East Coast weather ran inhumanely hot and humid, but on the day we patronized Leila’s it was spectacular, a 10-out-of-10! Luckily we had both taken off of work and enjoyed the great outdoors for most of the day, so sitting inside was not an issue.

With Lorraine treating, we offered to bring the wine, a red and a white also of French persuasion, which we thought would pair perfectly with the restaurant’s theme. It had been over a year since we all saw each other so we spent a good twenty minutes catching up while sipping our libations. During this chat we found out “Witty” (my new nickname for her since she is just a hoot a minute) had a connection to Jenkintown too. Apparently her ex-husband was from the town, yet she hadn’t been there in nearly 30 years!

Their menu is a simple white piece of paper with an unembellished list of that days starters and entrees, offering 6-8 of each. Both Lorraine and hubby ordered uncommon appetizers with Russ choosing the Fried Brussels Sprouts with bacon and caramel. I tasted them and WOW were they good!

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Lorraine selected the very summery Peach Gazpacho with pickled grapes and cucumber. What an interesting combination and beautiful presentation! And apparently very tasty too because that bowl was almost spotless when she was done. While my choice, Mixed Green Salad with stone fruit dressing and arugula, was boring in comparison, it was none-the-less trés bon.

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I should have bet money on Russ’ entree choice beforehand because he barely hesitated before choosing the Duck Breast which came with an outstanding mushroom ragout and parsnip puree. It apparently called out to Lorraine also because she got the same thing—and they concurred, the meal was magnifique!

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Me, I felt adventurous and selected the Fish of the Day: Black Drum served in a spicy yellow pepper sauce on a bed of kale. What I learned was Black Drum Fish have a mild, sweet flavor with firm flesh and large, moist flakes—comparable to Red Snapper—but the flesh of Black Drum lack hues of color and are simply white. Both the Red Drum and Black Drum Fish have similar flavors, although Black Drum has a coarser, meatier flesh. The smaller fish of both species tend to be sweeter and flakier. Yes indeedy, I would order it again.

In fact, we will make a concerted effort to return to Leila’s because small little “J-Town” is making a name for itself as a destination spot with it’s new restaurants (yes there are several more), and the nostalgia factor for Russ who lived there for 17 years.

Leila connection factoids: Back in my 20’s I had decided if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Leilyn; and to this day Eric Clapton’s song Layla invokes many a good memory…

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