The buzz was out on the streets, and I must have been told by at least 10 people in the past several weeks that I needed to try a new restaurant in Woodland Hills called Leo & Lily. Although it’s a densely populated area, Woodland Hills in the west end of the San Fernando Valley is by no means a dining mecca. In fact, from my perspective, it is in dire need of good tasting food. So, I assembled my crack team of enthusiastic food aficionados (Gail and Amy) and decided to pay Leo & Lily a visit and find out what the brouhaha was all about.
The restaurant itself doesn’t sit directly on Ventura Boulevard, but slightly off, maybe about 500 feet. That’s great because the entire front is a lovely outdoor patio with plenty of seating, and you avoid all the fumes from the traffic along the boulevard. There’s lots more seating inside the restaurant, which is warm and welcoming.
Since it was an unusually cooler day in the valley, my team and I decided to dine on their outdoor patio. As I glanced over the menu I was surprised how ambitious it was, as they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. (You can peruse the menu here.) We began our lunch with the sweet potato fries ($3.50) and the portobello mushroom fries ($3.95). The sweet potatoes were good, but for my taste I would have preferred them a bit crispier and with a touch more seasoning. The portobello fries however, were some of the best tasting stuff I’ve ever had. The outside had a crunchy, perfectly seasoned exterior with big pieces of flavorful, portobello mushroom inside.
We were greeted by owners Guy and Maureen Zaradez who were working their way through the patio area making sure that their customers were happy and being taken care of. Guy was telling my group how he’d been in the restaurant business most of his life. He explained how his goal was to bring healthy yet affordable dining to his customers, serving freshly baked breads and pastries, as well as making most everything else in-house. You could see that they had poured their heart and souls into this venture.
Our entrees arrive, and they are beautifully plated. We’ve ordered the sirloin steak sandwich ($11.95) which comes with an asiago cheese and onion jam on a whole wheat ciabatta, along with a tasty side salad. The steak is thinly sliced, and the sandwich achieves a great layering of flavors.
For Gail, the vegetarian in the group, we ordered the L & L Veggie Chopped ($10.95). This large salad comes with chickpeas, tomato, red onion, cucumber, red pepper and ricotta cheese with a creamy tahini dressing. All the vegetables were fresh and crispy, and the salad was so generous, that she had to take some home.
The last entree that we ordered (pictured at top), was the smoked salmon plate ($10.95). Our server tells us the the salmon is smoked in-house. It was tender and buttery and served with red onion, capers and cream cheese. It comes with a Jerusalem bagel, a crispy, sesame encrusted bread, which is something I’ve never had before, and really enjoyed.
Having enjoyed our lunch so much, we decided to finish off the meal with something sweet since Leo & Lily make all their desserts in-house. We ordered the raspberry breton ($3.95) and the flourless chocolate cake ($4.95). Having been wowed by the presentation of the entrees, I guess I was a bit disappointed that the desserts were just plopped on a plate. A dollop of whipped cream and a few raspberries would have gone a long way to make the dessert feel more complete.
Having been opened only 5 weeks so far, it seems Leo & Lily have worked out practically all of the kinks. The service was efficient and extremely friendly. There was sufficient parking in their lot as well as street parking, so we didn’t have trouble accessing the restaurant. But most importantly the food tasted great. I enjoyed the casual atmosphere as well as the thoughtfully prepared dishes. Leo & Lily, welcome to Woodland Hills, we’re glad to have you.
Leo & Lily, 22420 Ventura Boulevard Woodland Hills, CA 91364 (818) 222-6622