Tysons Corner Center is spicing its dining scene up with the opening of a new restaurant that promises aromatic cuisine and a nightclub-like atmosphere in the evenings.
Inspired by co-owner Bikram Keith’s experiences touring the world as a DJ for British R&B musician Jay Sean, Leila serves kebabs, naan, and other food from the Middle East, Persian Gulf, and northern India.
The menu was designed to evoke the cultures shaped by the Spice Routes that historically served as the backbone of trade between Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia.
After opening just for family and friends the previous night, the 210-seat restaurant got a soft public launch last Thursday (Oct. 28), and the response so far has been “unbelievable,” according to co-owner Vinoda Basnayake.
“We are hoping to honor the traditional dishes of each culture represented, yet constantly challenge ourselves with how to be innovative and creative with our menu,” Basnayake said. “We want the people in Tysons to not feel like they have to trek into the city for a good meal and good atmosphere and we want to be a fun destination for Washingtonians who make the trip.”
A close friend of Keith, Basnayake is a principal of Versus Equity, a brand management company behind several D.C. bars, including the nightclub HEIST, Casta’s Rum Bar, and Morris American Bar, according to Northern Virginia Magazine.
Joined by Punjab Grill owner Karan Singh, who created the menu, the trio developed the concept for Leila in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic after noticing that Northern Virginia diners were staying closer to home instead of crossing the Potomac into D.C.
Basnayake says the goal is to celebrate the cuisine of the Spice Route, while also bringing the nightlife party atmosphere of Versus’ D.C. bars to the Tysons area, where Keith grew up.
To that end, Leila’s 5,000 square-foot dining room is complemented by an outdoor patio as well as a bar and cocktail lounge. DJs will also perform at the restaurant on Thursdays through Sundays until 2 a.m.
“I think the ambiance and vibe were really key in nailing what we wanted Leila to be. The lighting and music make you really feel transported from the mall,” Basnayake said, noting that Leila — whose name means “daughter of the night” in Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu — is the only place in the mall open that late.
While the restaurant initially encountered some of the same hiring challenges facing the entire food service industry, Basnayake says the owners are proud of the team they have assembled, including Punjab Grill chef Jassi Bindra and General Manager Hamid Khalili and Versus Beverage Director Hank Bowers.
Located in Suite 7943B near Panera Bread and Shilla Bakery, Leila is now open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with weekday happy hours, Sunday brunch, and a late-night menu.
According to the mall, other recent arrivals at Tysons Corner Center include Bisnonna Bakeshop, luxury fashion store Aritzia, electric car company Lucid Motors, and the “Japanese-inspired” lifestyle retailer Miniso, which opened its doors in early October.
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