Pronounced lee-lah, from chef Manuel's childhood name for his grandma, and not to be confused with the pizzeria on West Ave.
Located in the old digs of Parma at the NW corner of Herdon and Marks, four of us ventured in last night to TOFTT and we were all thrilled that we did.
A long narrow plate with housemade crackers and some of the best hummus we've tasted arrived immediately, their welcoming complimentary dish. The wines we brought were immediately uncorked and poured so they could breathe. The space is very inviting and pleasant with excellent art on the walls created by Manuel's mother.
We chose two appetizers to share, Crab Cakes and the Polenta Points with Andouille sausage. The crab "cakes" turned out to be five round golf ball size offerings drizzed with a little lemon aioli, three of us deemed them meh and too bready and one of us being just OK. The polenta dish was a winner across the board with the polenta being soft cubes rather than the expected slimmer browned pieces, covered with tasty grilled peppers and onions and the best andouille sausage we've had since New Orleans. Lady PB and I shared the Carrot Ginger soup and the Spiced Beet Salad, both very well executed.
For mains, our DCs chose the Halibut for him and the Filet Mignon w/ Gorgonzola for her. The generous thick piece of fish had a perfectly seared crust with the interior cooked to a moist perfection. The small taste of filet I tried was outstanding, as was the 16oz Rib-Eye that i ordered, which was one of the prettiest pieces of meat (along with that filet) that we've run across in a long time, it sat on sauteed spinach, asparagus spears and mashed potatos, covered with a sublime red wine reduction sauce. The meat was cooked perfectly rare with an even red from top to bottom.
I had wanted to try their Skirt Steak that I'd seen earlier on their lunch menu, but our server, Randy, checked with the chef and reported that wasn't happy with the product he'd received and would not serve it this evening.
The only disappointment was the Lamb Sirloin that my wife ordered, while another generous portion, and cooked perfectly, there was too much gristle and the silver skin that ran through it made it tough to get any tender bites for the most part. They thanked us for pointing that out, apologized profusely, and removed it from the bill. As it turned out my rib-eye stuffed both of us and Lady PB took enough home for a full meal the next night.
[ETA: neglected to mention that the Savory Bread Pudding side dish with the Lamb was also a home run]
We were able to converse at length with Randy learning more about the staff backgrounds. Chef Manuel, who came out and introduced himself, has Erna's Elderberry House on his resume and a couple of others that I'm blanking on at the moment. His philosophy is to source as much locally grown produce and meat as possible. Randy is responsible for the wine list which will be in a constant flux that will feature many of the small production vintners on the central coast and a few of the better Napa Sonoma and even an OR label or two. Turns out he has worked at Trelio and is close to the Shacklefords and using Chris as a main source of finding the little hidden gems, along with Jim Lamar of J&L Wines, who has supplied our area with the best from Paso Robles for quite some time. There is also a smattering of French, Spanish and Italian varietals. From the white selections 9 of the 27 are available BTG (2 of the 8 sparklings), from the reds 11 of 47 BTG, there is one rose and 5 dessert/appertif offerings.
Bottom line, if you live in NW Fresno you need to get to Lela ASAP, we need to support this new neighborhood venture. Hell, if you're within 50 miles, you need to put it on your list.
7089 N Marks Ave
Fresno, CA 93711
http://lelasrestaurant.com (not yet active)
[ETA: just recalled that they will be serving coffee when a few replacement parts arrive for the new $9K machine]
A few of the interesting wine selections:
Chardonnay - Zotovich 09 Sta Rita Hills, Kistler Sonoma Coast
Sauv. Blanc - Thomas e FILS "Le Crele" Sancerre
Pinot Noir - Witness Tree 09 Willamette Valley, Longoria '10 Sta Rita Hills (14/57), Zotovich 09 SRH, Donum 08 Russian River
Rhone style reds - Andrew Murray "Tours les Jours" 09 Syrah Central Coast (7.5/30), Zotovich 09
SRH Syrah, Dashe Cellars '10 Dry Creekj Grenache
Big Reds - Shafer Merlot, Robert Sinskey Cab blend, Rutherford Ranch Cab Sauv, Round Pond and Shafer Cab Sauv.
Zinfandel - Karly Ten Point '10 Amador County, Dashe 09 Dry Creek
Italian, Spanish & Malbec - includes Sangiovese, a Super Tuscan, two Tempranillos, Graciano, three Malbecs, a Nero d Avola, and a Barbera d Asti