High Marks for Byblos
Byblos Miami has one of the most exciting menus I’ve seen in Miami in awhile. The restaurant is named for the Lebanese city that was a crossroads of the Middle East and varied civilizations over centuries. So think Eastern Mediterranean including Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Spain and Greece – its foods, wines and even teas. When we sat down to dinner in the upper level of two stories, a residential like ambiance with 17 foot high ceilings and fabric covered art panels of the Minoans, we could smell the Turkish barberi bread baking from the stone oven. Whatever we ate was uniformly delicious, unusually seasoned, yet with the right touch, and had us craving more. Not surprising that with food like this, the restaurant is a success in its two other locales — Toronto and Dubai — and more outposts on the way.
In keeping with Med cuisine, mezze (small plates) are presented along with larger entrees also for sharing .With our cocktails we had the spicy Maltese olives with the housemade bread, savory with sesame seeds, coriander and toasted hazelnuts that hit the spot. Then came the starters including succulent small lamb ribs that had been cooked sous vide for 14 hours, crusted with chick pea flour, and then flash fried and tossed with Carob molasses. The ribs almost fell off the bone they were so tender, and given a kick with red chili sauce, so they were at once sweet and salty. The portion had four ribs, perfect for sharing.
Another winner are the crispy baby artichokes – small, fried leaves resting on a bed of labneh – yogurt made with goat and cow’s milk, with orange blossom honey on top and edible flowers – beautiful to behold and so different.
Do not miss the roasted lamb shoulder for two. The lamb is brined overnight, rubbed with sumac, garlic and thyme and braised for 14 hours. It’s served with five condiments — special peppers and chili, pickled turnip, houses pickles and a garlic aioli,that transported me back to the Middle East. The lamb was slightly crusty on the outside, meltingly tender inside, and rich in taste. We teamed it up with seared cauliflower made with duck fat, tahini sauce, sesame and coriander, a good counterpoint to the lamb. The Cornish hen, another good choice, was richly flavored yet in a delicate, nuanced way the revealed the hand of a talented kitchen staff and chef. The wait staff was also of notable quality and training. We chose to accompany the meal with a Lebanese red wine, Massaya Le Colombier, that was rich and full bodied, and a good buy at $55.
Several of many dishes for next time are the Turkish manti dumplings made with smokey eggplant, yogurt sauce and molasses; the basmati rices such as the Persian kale with all matter of exotic ingredients; a Middle Eastern fried chicken crusted with a spiced sesame flour, tahini sauce and house hot sauce; and finally, a crispy hand rolled couscous—creamed collards and halloumi, much like a Middle Eastern quiche.
Desserts were equally intriguing, like brioche loukoumades and pizzelle — baklava ice cream salted caramel and couscous praline.
Diners at the 200 seat restaurant can choose to go downstairs and visit Envie after dinner — newly opened nightclub that features music by a DJ for the later night crowd.
Byblos is a fine restaurant on South Beach, so prices are in line with this. Starters are in the teens; entrees range from $21 to $68 with the average around $40; rices in the 20’s; sides and desserts in the low teens. A 5 ounce pour of wine starts at $13; bottles at $52.
Byblos Miami is in the Shorecrest Building at Royal Palm South Beach, 1545 Collins Avenue (T.305-508-5041).
Parking: Valet at Royal Palm South Beach
Photography by William Oberheiser