Consortium Holding's Incoming Leila Middle Eastern Restaurant Adds Experienced Chef

May 7, 2024

To lead the kitchen for its incoming Leila Middle Eastern restaurant opening this summer in San Diego's North Park, Consortium Holdings has hired experienced chef Wesley Remington Johnson. 

In the heart of North Park, a culinary oasis is emerging, bearing the imprint of Consortium Holdings' founder Arsalun Tafazoli's vision. Leila, the forthcoming Middle Eastern restaurant, is more than just another venture for CH Projects; it's a deeply personal journey for Tafazoli, a homage to his roots and upbringing.

With the tumultuous backdrop of the Middle East in mind, Tafazoli aims to weave a narrative of unity through Leila's menu, celebrating the diverse flavors and shared heritage of the region. Having spent his formative years in Iran, Tafazoli is eager to introduce patrons to cherished childhood dishes like tahdig, a tantalizing saffron-infused rice delicacy paired with hearty stews.

The culinary helm of Leila is entrusted to New Jersey-native Wesley Remington Johnson, a seasoned chef with experience working in the kitchen at James Beard Award-winning Zahav in Philadelphia and Castagna in Portland. Johnson's expertise spans Israeli, Iranian, and Lebanese cuisines, augmented by Moroccan nuances and a robust bread program. Joining him is Justin Ayoub, a Culinary Institute of America alum, and renowned mixologist Leigh Lacap, returning to CH Projects after a stint at various notable establishments.

Tafazoli's meticulous attention extends beyond the kitchen; it permeates every corner of the 5,000 square-foot Leila's ambiance. Drawing inspiration from a recent sojourn in Morocco, he curated the restaurant's bi-level design, adorning it with light fixtures from Marrakesh's bustling souks and imbuing it with terracotta motifs reminiscent of sacred Moroccan sites. The space will be a tapestry of Middle Eastern artistry, a testament to Tafazoli's commitment to authenticity and cultural homage.

Leila will offer a Middle Eastern, Lebanese and Persian-inspired fusion menu and design with an open kitchen, full bar and a running stream flowing around the ample space. From the central bar, there will be a focus on Middle Eastern spirits, including Aragh sagi, which is a raisin-based spirit known as Iranian moonshine or "Persian Vodka", and Arak, a distilled Levantine spirit of the anise drinks family.

In addition Leila, Consortium Holdings is also overhauling La Avenida Inn in Coronado. The company is adding a new Mediterranean brasserie and reservation-only oyster & champagne bar to the nearly 70-year-old, 29-guest-room hotel, located off Orange Avenue in the heart of San Diego's picturesque Coronado. 

Consortium Holdings also has several additional projects in the works right now. The company in the process of restyling the 14-year-old Starlite restaurant on northern India Street in San Diego's highway-adjacent Middletown neighborhood. The restaurant is anticipated to become an old-school steakhouse-style bar & restaurant with a menu centered around dry-aged meat and a continued focus on craft cocktails.

CH Projects founder Arsalun Tafazoli also recently acquired six properties on Kettner, Juniper and India at the northern end of Little Italy at a cost of $13 million in order to build a project tentatively named Dreamboat, a boutique hotel, two restaurants, offices and a wellness center. He is currently appealing a decision by the San Diego Airport Authority that his proposed Little Italy hotel project violates land use regulations due to its presence in a flight path.

The company is also adding a spa concept inspired by Russian, Roman and Turkish bathhouses as part of its ongoing restoration of The Lafayette Hotel, as well as a fine-dining, French-inspired restaurant named Le Horse Continental Room. CH founder Arsalun Tafazoli also owns the shopping plaza at 3401 Adams Avenue in Normal Heights, which sits across the street from Blind Lady AleHouse and approximately a half mile from CH's Polite Provisions. It is believe he is building a commercial kitchen and bakery in the unit.

The follow-up to CH Projects’ blockbuster restoration of the Lafayette Hotel is a quieter but no less ambitious project that is particularly meaningful for the local hospitality group’s co-founder, Arsalun Tafazoli. Scheduled to open later this summer in North Park, Leila is a Middle Eastern restaurant that’s also a personal declaration of culture and family for Tafazoli.

Leila is expected to open by early summer at 3956 30th Street in San Diego's North Park. For more information, visit

Photography by Megan Swann.