By Sam Gugino
You or your GPS might be a bit confused by the Leila’s Bistro Facebook page, which lists an Erdenheim address under “Find Us” but also refers to itself as “French American Cuisine in the heart of Flourtown.” Actually, it’s neither. Leila’s is in Flourtown, but just across Bethlehem Pike from Erdenheim in a spot that was once Roberto’s. (there is also a Leila’s in Jenkintown.)
More confusion ensues when you walk in to see a good-size bar in what you think is a BYO restaurant. Turns out Leila’s has been waiting for a liquor license for several months. But until then, it does allow customers to bring in wine. So hurry if you want to save a few Andrew Jacksons on dinner.
Leila’s two dining rooms have a George Washington slept here look: low ceilings, old doors that don’t look like they are entirely plumb, old-fashioned hardware and plain wood floors. This is augmented by some interesting French prints on shades of various fabrics, all tied up prettily in bows, and more French accents on chair cushions. The white stuccoed walls have a smattering of colonial looking chachkas like lanterns and crockery, as well as things like a large, weathered Bordeaux wine label and cool looking sconces with exposed filament lightbulbs.
Bread, butter and water arrived promptly. The bread was decent but the garlic-parsley butter tasted more like an unremarkable cheese spread. Water, served in glasses that require two hands when full, was as bad as any I’ve had in recent years.
As is often the case elsewhere, appetizers at Leila’s look more interesting than entrees. On the positive side, the shrimp and scallops in their respective dishes were cooked flawlessly, emerging firm and juicy. Unfortunately, the shrimp’s shrimp bisque sauce tasted more like tomato puree than a creamy shellfish soup. the reverse was true for escargot in soubise sauce. Though the little mollusks were nothing special and the sauce didn’t taste like a creamy onion sauce (which is what soubise is), the sauce was still so good I asked for a spoon to get every last drop.
Wedge salad was two slices of artfully presented iceberg lettuce with a bacon and truffle blue cheese dressing. Despite the bold ingredients, the overall flavor was rather tame.
Foie gras seems to appear less frequently on restaurant menus these days, no doubt because of animal rights groups’ protests. Here the presentation was interesting contrast between the rich and silky liver and chewy bacon accompaniment. However, this dish and the beef bourguignon were barely lukewarm. The bourguignon wasn’t a stew, as it normally, but more of a braised beef. And while the potatoes suffered from the chill, the meat was still fabulous. The boulder-size chunks were meltingly tender and chock full of flavor.
Desserts are fairly limited but the peanut butter pot de crème was immensely satisfying with a pleasant contrast of textures including Oreo cookies at the bottom of the dish. The butterscotch version was more subtle but still nicely done. Solid decafe coffee rounds out the meal.
Service was attentive and efficient, though someone needs to tell the busboy that the answer to every customer question isn’t “no problem.” And while you’re at it, tell the housecleaner to vacuum the stairs to the restroom.
Leila’s Bistro, 700 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown, 215-233-2316, www.leilasflourtown.com. Tuesday – Saturday: 5pm – 9pm; Sunday: 5:30pm – 9pm. Reservations accepted. Cash or check only. Appetizers, $8-$16, entrees, $20-$30.
If you manage to get into Leila’s before the liquor license arrives, I suggest French American wines to go with the restaurant’s French-American cuisine. Randall Grahm is the most famous proponent of Rhone varietals in California via his Bonny Doon label. Bonny Doon Vineyard le Cigare Blanc Arroyo Seco 2013 (Code: 32082, $19.99) is a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc that is quite enjoyable on its own and just as good (or better) with seafood and light meats. Sobon Estate Viognier Amador County 2015 (Code: 73537, $16.99) is less complex but a worthy rendition of this varietal.
The red version of Grahm’s Rhone blended wine is Bonny Doon Vineyard Clos De Gilroy 2014, which mostly grenache with a little mourvedre and a splash of syrah. Excellent with the beef bourguignon. Qupe Modern Red Central Coast 2013 (Code: 74229, $14.99) is another well-made Rhone blend. If you’d rather go with a single varietal, Chateau Ste Michelle Winery Syrah Columbia Valley 2013 (Code: 73682) is a steal at $15.99.