Of the many little "gems" in Iowa City, Leaf Kitchen has to be one of my favorites. It is a small little restaurant located on the outskirts of downtown Iowa City, offering wine, beer and sake as well as an interesting mix of small Japanese/Asian-inspired plates. The dinner menu includes simple, fresh and delicious dishes. The Watermelon-Cucumber Salad with cashew nuts, goat cheese, onion, mint and yuzu vinaigrette made for a refreshing starter as did the Grilled Shrimp and White Bean Salad with fresh herbs, tomato, sprouts and pistachio-mint oil. We have had the Korean-style Zucchini Pancakes with spicy dipping soy sauce and the Pan fried Tofu Dumplings with shiitake mushroom carrots, scallion and pine nuts at least a couple of times (both delicious!) and the Cold Sesame Noodles were a light accompaniment. If you are looking for something light, healthy and veggie-friendly, Leaf Kitchen is the spot to be.
In terms of atmosphere, at night, Leaf Kitchen has an adorable charm. One can imagine this is some place other than the middle of Iowa - a hippie cafe in San Francisco or New York perhaps. I have heard the brunch menu is quite good although I have yet to try it out. The afternoon tea was pleasant, but not in the fabulous way of the Taj back in Boston. Service at tea time left much to be desired. While the food was quite good, we were rather rudely berated for having one less person show up for our reservation (a last minute cancellation beyond our control). Pity, since afternoon tea is generally such a pleasant experience.
Despite the latter experience I will undoubtably come back again for dinner (it really is wonderful).
301 Kirkwood Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52240