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Lailla: Mediterranean delight in Bayside restaurant

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Entering Lailla is a bit like entering an Oriental bazaar. Small Oriental rugs are hung here, there and everywhere. There are lots of water pipes, too. If they were being smoked outdoors in front, in summer, wouldn't that add fabulous bit of authenticity!

Although there's an attractive bar in the rear and Lailla pegs itself as a restaurant bar, it's BYOB at the moment. Not to worry - a liquor store is down the block. But on Friday and Saturday nights, you do have a belly dancer and a Turkish singer, too, on Saturday.

My dining companion did run out for a bottle of wine but we two also had ayran, a yogurt shake, and ordered our first course as we sipped it. Always popular humus, the pureed chickpea, garlic, olive oil and tahini spread, was the first course preference of my two guests. A basket of warm pita cut into wedges provided the traditional bread for the spread.

I was intrigued by calf's liver listed as a hot appetizer, so I ordered that. It was precisely cut into petite three-eighth-inch squares and prepared so that it was ultra crisp on the outside and ultra tender on the inside. Nice! A garnish of sliced red onion, tomato and lemon added just the right foil. And, although tremendously delicious, the serving was more than ample. Doggy bag, please, for snacking the next day

My guest was delighted to find a vegetarian entree listing and ordered, falafel. It was a dramatic presentation on an oversized service plate with ample greens. Tahini sauce complimented the chick pea, garlic, onion and crispy corn balls, deep fried. And there was an added extra - a side dish of steamed vegetables. A salad preceded it.

Another salad with feta cheese was the prelude to guest number two's fish entree. The swordfish steak was ultra-moist, served heaped with an array of vegetables including green pepper wedges. Rice accompanied this dish

I was tremendously pleased with my whole porgie (Mediterranean restaurants seem to be the only ones who know how good it can be and how to prepare it pristinely.) The simply grilled porgie decked out with small whole mushrooms, broccoli florets and green pepper wedges was ultra festive eating. A side dish of rice pilaf accompanied it and a fine green salad introduced it.

Desserts proved to be the highlight for my guests. One had baklava, the layered phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and topped with cinnamon. Lailla's version is a large square only 3/4-inch high. My other guest had kadayif, shredded wheat stuffed with walnuts, baked and topped with honey syrup. This was eaten with approval. And I liked Lailla's version of semolina pudding - jelly roll like. Turkish coffee for me and herbal tea for her, the vegetarian.

The chef of 20 years, from Istanbul, features yogurtlu kebabs, yogurt enhanced kebabs (chicken, lamb, shish and kofte). Also of note, are the four salad choices: A shepherd salad with tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, parsley, olive oil and vinegar; the Greek salad with red lettuce, green pepper, red onion, tomato, cucumber, black olives, feta cheese, vinegar and olive oil dressing; Mediterranean with red lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, feta cheese, oil and vinegar dressing; and the Jerusalem salad, the most interesting, has tomato, cucumber, dill and green pepper with tahini sauce.

At lunch you may go with the dinner menu or have chicken and mushroom kebab pita, a falafel pita sandwich, humus pita sandwich, grilled salmon sandwich, grilled vegetable kebab (another vegetarian entree) sandwich, shrimp tava, a cold appetizer platter or shish kebab sandwich. All are $7.25 served with salad and a yogurt square.

While dining at Lailla, you may wish to contemplate the 12 century legend: Lailla was a star-crossed love like Juliet - a tidbit that may add zing to your meal.

The Bottom Line

Belly dancing on Friday and Saturday. Turkish singing, too, on Saturday. Fresh, homey Turkish cuisine. Attractive, Oriental rug-hung restaurant and bar.

Lailla

42-24 Bell Blvd. Bayside

718-225-2904

Fax 718-225-2940

Chef's Choice

Eggplant Salad (ground eggplant, garlic, olive oil, mayonnaise)...$4.50

Humus (pureed chick peas, garlic, olive oil, tahini)...$4.75

Calf's Liver (appetizer with red onion, parsley, lemon)...$6.95

Cigar Borek (feta cheese and parsley)...$4.50

Shish Kebab (baby lamb, green pepper, tomato, red onion, rice, steamed vegetables)...$12.95

Chicken Mushroom Kebab Pita Sandwich (served with salad & yogurt sauce)...$7.25

Grilled Lamb Kebab Salad (over Mediterranean or Greek salad)...$11

Baklava (layers of flaky phyllo filled with chopped nuts, topped with cinnamon)...$4.95

Rice Pudding (Turkish style)...$4.50

Cuisine: Mediterranean, Turkish

Setting: Oriental throw rugs, water pipes

Service: Accommodating

Hours: L & D 7 days

Parking: Municipal lot

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: Visa & MC

Children: Accommodate

Takeout: Yes

Belly dancing: Friday & Sat.

Turkish singer: Sat

Off-premise catering: Yes

Noise level: Fri & Sat moderate

Handicap access: Yes

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