Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji are royal mavens in the hospitality industry. They have the Midas touch when it comes to the restaurant business, with the likes of Patria and Weslodge as their hip and happening hot spots on King West. Their newest venture, Byblos opened this month with great fanfare. Byblos' menu is the brainchild of executive chef, Stuart Cameron of both Patria and Weslodge fame. He has created unique Eastern Mediterranean infused fare and is mainly concerned with providing fresh ingredients and fine dining with flair.
His Georgian inspired dish, the cheese acharuli with quail egg, brioche and za’atar is reminiscent of Turkish pide. The brioche base cradles brined feta and halloumi cheeses accompanied with spicy harissa. The dish does not possess a distinctive flavour, as all of the cheeses meld together and the textures are lost due to the small portion. Nevertheless, the little nibble was very delicious.
My favourite dish of the evening was the duck kibbeh with tahini aioli. The savoury snack was nicely complemented with the sweetness of the dried fig and date molasses. Two textures were at play with the fried bulgur wheat enrobing the pleasantly soft duck confit.
I sampled grilled octopus, which came with a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and pomegranates. The octopus was cooked very well, but the salad was a little too sour for my taste buds.
Eager and enthusiastic bar manager, Wes Galloway, also known as the house alchemist, has concocted an impressive drink menu that will please even the most discriminating cocktail connoisseur. The drink that impressed me the most was the date old fashioned, which had great whiskey flavour coupled with the right balance of bitterness in what would otherwise have been too sweet a drink.
The restaurant has two dining rooms in the beautifully adorned and historic Storys Building. The main floor features beautiful bone china lamps that resemble ornate tagines. There are also quite a few unique light fixtures that hang haphazardly and draw your eyes upward. Upstairs, the expansive dining area has a lounge-like vibe, as the DJ spun generic sounding Arabic tunes, which were accessible for Western tastes. Of note are the ingeniously designed windows. As the Storys Building directly faces a blasé redbrick building, the windows are covered with vertical and horizontal lines and light pours into the space which masks the lacklustre view.
Chef Stuart Cameron created a pleasurable culinary experience for me. Byblos provides the perfect ambience to enjoy scrumptious tapas and divine cocktails. I shall gladly return.
11 Duncan Street
Toronto, Ontario M5H 3G6