Tucked away off of the bustling streets of M St., Neyla’s has it all; ambiance, cocktails, and great food. Although small in size compared to other DC restaurants, the GM bends over backwards past the caddy hostesses to try to cater to every entering guest. Adding tables, scrambling for chairs, he miraculously is able to seat everyone even on the busiest nights. Gracious as he is accommodating, he alone is what makes this restaurant stand apart from others with his genuine hospitality.
Cost – $$$
Service – A-
At a place like Neyla’s my expectations for the wait staff, at minimum, were met. My water glass was constantly being filled and we were checked on a few times during the meal. The waiter did go above and beyond with recommending certain dishes and explaining the accompaniments of each entree.
Food – B-
Dining during restaurant week, a special menu was set apart for the event’s participants. Having had extensive experience with Middle Eastern cuisine, I found that the hommos and the baba ghannoug were a bit too lemony for my palate. My favorite dish on the menu was the braised lamb. The eggplant puree and manchego cheese were a perfect sharp and slightly tangy accompaniment to the succulent lamb. The chicken shish taouk stood out with its strong garlicy-shalloty flavor, but dipped with the yogurt sauce gave the perfect creamy and tart bite that I love in Middle Eastern cuisine. Creative cocktail concoctions stand apart from the standard cosmopolitan and fruity vodka mixes that most places feature. A must try is the Lebanese beer; smooth and crisp like a light beer but surprised me by not providing a slight bitter finish. Although I gave the food a relatively low rating, I fully intend to come back again. With its eclectic menu featuring dishes all over the Mediterranean, I know there will be plenty of surprises for me to try each time I come.
Decor – A-
Middle Eastern mysteriousness definitely is reflected by the décor at Neyla’s. Strips of red fabric jet out of the walls providing a feel of luxuriousness. Wooden furniture and emblems nod to the antiquity of the cuisine and culture. Colorful lamps hang from the ceiling to solidify the feeling of being transported away from the busy DC area. If you’re lucky enough to score the couch seats in the corner, be ready to take in the plush, richly colored cushions and pillows.
Feel – A-
The music is a touch too loud, and the lighting is a bit too dark after the sun goes down, but the overall ambiance is still great. The darkness casts a mysteriousness over the restaurant and the tucked away seating inside is perfect for people watching as guests leave and enter. Mehdi Zorgani, the GM, is what I think makes this restaurant stand apart. Although people were lined up outside and the hostesses were turning guests away, Mehdi managed to accommodate anyone and everyone who was willing to try Neyla’s. His “lets include everyone” approach really caught my eye as he courteously checked on every table, kept a careful eye on the kitchen, and miraculously conjured up tables and chairs for the heavy stream of guests. Having been in the restaurant business myself, I have never seen such a display of hospitality in my life. I was truly impressed.