Always one of my favorite Santa Cruz dining spots, Laili is now offering the chance to dine in as well as order takeaway from a menu that includes all the restaurant’s favorites. So we ordered some of ours last week for takeaway. Worth noting: when I went to pick up, there were patrons already seated inside, as well as out in the atmospheric courtyard. The reopening is working!
Choosing is always a challenge at Laili, given the incredible possibilities such as cilantro Caesar salad, brilliant pastas, and complex wraps. So we let our appetites decide. The outrageous lamb kabob, with exceptionally tender lamb tenderloin roasted on skewers, is my all-time favorite ($29). And so is the house pan-roasted trout with lemon garlic sauce ($19). We got both dishes, along with a side of tangy babaghanoush ($4). Without babaghanoush it’s just not a serious Mediterranean excursion.
Laili packs its dinners beautifully, with proteins neatly placed alongside the aromatic basmati rice and sauteed veggies. Various sauces and chutneys came in small containers—as usual our favorites were a zippy, minty, yogurt relish, and another of bright green pureed cilantro and chiles. We dished out our dinners, including the filet of trout topped with lemon and parsley, opened a bottle of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards Grenache, and shared from each plate. It’s fun to play with the different sauces, each adding a muscular richness to the lamb and fish without relying on Mediterranean culinary clichés.
The food traveled well. The plump cubes of flawless lamb, medium rare as requested in our online order, were incredible. The sweet and tart eggplant infused with tahini, lemon, garlic, and perfumed with dried mint was perfection with the tender lamb—very tender lamb. A separate box of spicy salad of cherry tomatoes, pickled onions, Persian cucumbers and aromatic cilantro was included.
After the first bite of our satisfying meal, we reminded ourselves that we needed to add Laili to our short list of takeaway favorites. With each passing week restaurants are figuring out how to pack their dinners for ease of serving and attractiveness of in-home presentation. It’s a huge challenge, and I salute every chef and restaurateur and staffer who is helping to provide diners some continuity in the current dicey environment. Patrons: the survival of your favorite restaurant is up to you!
Laili, 101 B. Cooper St., Santa Cruz. 831-423-4545, lailirestaurant.com. Takeout all day; dine-in Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30am-2:30pm, and 5-9pm or 10pm.
Homeless Garden Retail
Both stores devoted to the handiwork of Homeless Garden Project apprentices are back open, the Pacific Avenue store Thursday-Sunday, 11am-6pm, and the Capitola Esplanade store Friday-Sunday from noon to 6pm. The stores showcase products made from herbs and flowers grown on the organic farm, including candles, jams, bath and body items, plus jewelry, books and cards. Bring your mask and stop by.
Jon and Tatiana Glass emailed to say that they’re back in the on-site dining action, serving in three dining areas Wednesday-Sunday, 5-9pm. Enjoy the Avanti menu at the outdoor patio, the Garden Room, or the main dining room. Avanti will absolutely continue the popular curbside pickup feature, but however you choose, don’t miss the house dinosaur kale salad—add the succulent hanger steak for a few dollars more.
Avanti, 1917 Mission St., Santa Cruz. Make reservations at 831-427-0135 avantisantacruz.squarespace.com.
Wine of the Week
We enjoyed an Alfaro Estate Pinot Noir 2018 ($22) along with a recent dinner of salmon, and another of mushroom risotto. The wine’s medium-light 13.5% alcohol was the perfect carrier for the varietal’s bouquets of bay leaves and plums, plus a pleasant hint of tobacco. An appealing partner for olives, cheeses, and burgers. The dramatic “A” on the label says it all. Available at Shopper’s Corner.