By Lori Bosworth
Torontonicity was invited to attend a media preview on March 13, 2014 of Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji’s latest incarnation, Byblos Restaurant, at 11 Duncan Street in Toronto’s Entertainment District. Located in the STORYS Building just north of King Street West, Byblos’s kitchen, helmed by Australian ex-pat Executive Chef Stuart Cameron, focuses on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, resulting in dishes with a Greek, Turkish, Egyptian and Levantine influence.
Upon arrival, we were offered Moroccan Mint Tea to take the chill off and delicious steak tartare appetizers, topped with labneh, a Greek yogourt.
These were followed up by organic house-made Labneh on crunchy Sangak bread, an Iranian specialty. The creamy yogourt provided a wonderful contrast to the crispy flatbread.
Dishes at Byblos will be served family style with both small and large plates so that all can share.
Next on Chef Cameron’s menu was Duck Confit: kibbehs with duck, dried fig and date molasses. The Kibbeh, the national dish of Lebanon, featured a croquette made of bulgur and spices, stuffed with duck and figs. Although I usually find duck too strong a meat for my liking, this kibbeh delighted my taste buds due to the sweetening effect of the figs.
Not timid about eating Cephalopods, I can, however, admit that some might find these sea creatures a bit chewy. Chef Cameron’s octupus, however, was some of the tenderest seafood I have ever tasted. This was the culinary hit of the night.
Bartenders were busy mixing up fruity concoctions, including a house punch.
My guest opted to try, Gulab, a vodka with pomegranate, lemon and cardamom and commented on the strong flavours in the cocktail. She felt something sweeter would be a better thirst quencher.
Byblos owner Charles Khabouth, always hands-on, surveys the crowd to ensure things are running smoothly.
The lower level of Byblos, where we were gathered for the media event, embraces a decor that combines the old with the new in this glorious brick and beam building. Hardwood floors merge into a tile mosaict while a wall of treasured teapots competes against abstract lighting. For a more formal dinner or drinks, reserve a circular booth on the second floor of the restaurant, which offers glitz and glamour.
If you are planning a private party, the third and fourth floors offer spacious and
Conveniently located just minutes west of King and University, Byblos will become a popular eating spot for the after-work crowd, pre-theatre crowd, pre-Roy-Thomson-Hall crowd and even pre-Blue-Jays-games crowd. I definitely plan to suggest Byblos for my next girls’ night out.