I’m a sucker for Mediterranean food and I always have been. For the most part, however, my frame of reference with this type of food has been relegated to homemade falafel (for a third grade school project), late-night street shawarma in Spain (oh, college), and lunching on kibbeh, kafta, and shish tawook at the Daily Bread Marketplace. By and large, Miami doesn’t offer a lot of upscale, refined, finer dining Mediterranean dining options. Enter Byblos…
Byblos Miami is the (younger, because Miami) sister restaurant of the established and popular Byblos Toronto, located here on South Beach at the Royal Palm Hotel. In terms of aesthetics, the restaurant is a little Miami and a little Mediterranean. Neither style overwhelms the other, and overall they combine nicely to create an ambience that is both bright, fun, and exciting, as well as warm and comforting.
When it comes to the food, the Byblos menu is also an amalgamation of traditional and local. While the Eastern Mediterranean influences are certainly the focal point, the locally-sourced ingredients also make sure that Florida is well represented on your tastebuds. Furthermore, the combination of time-honored classic cooking techniques and modern methods make the menu a true coastal and cultural mosaic, served family style in a convivial atmosphere.
The dishes at Byblos are on the smaller side, mezze-style. Be prepared to order roughly three to four appetizers, one main course, and one side dish per person. It seems like a lot, but the portion sizes are by design. Trust your waiter*, he won’t steer you wrong.
OK, let’s get into specifics… For the appetizers, I tried six different dishes. As I mentioned, the dishes are small, but when shared as a joint appetizer experience, you’ll definitely have enough food to go around. I must admit, though, that some dishes are harder to share than others and you might need to order multiples to satisfy everyone’s desire to taste.
Salmon Kibbeh Nayeh, served with house Turkish paste, mint, and labneh. This is basically a salmon tartare, and a damn good one at that.
Roasted Local Beets, served with pistachio, caraway, labneh, and Barbari bread. This is an example of one of those hard to share apps, but if you’re only a party of two, you can pretty easily slice it down the middle. And the labneh (which is basically another form of Greek yogurt)? Exquisite.
Lamb Ribs, with dukkah, buttermilk sauce, carob molasses, and red chili schug. If you were to take the plural denotation and you’ve got me; I mean there’s obviously only ONE rib here! Other than that, however, this dish is a winner. The tender, rich, and slightly sweet lamb meat is beautifully countered by the sour buttermilk sauce and the spice of the red chili chug. I just wanted MORE!
Eggplant Kibbeh, stuffed in a zucchini flower, rolled in baharat, and fried in chickpea batter. A genius idea, deliciously executed.
Fresh Crispy Squid, with bandari spice, schug, and toum. One of the larger sized appetizer portions, with a light crunch, and refreshing, citrusy finish.
Fig Salad, tossed with orange blossom vinaigrette, Ackawi cheese, kohlrabi, and pistachio. This salad was a nice way to round out the appetizer portion of the meal. Light and delightful.
For the main course, as mentioned, the best way to attack is to order one entree and one side dish per person. This is precisely what I did, and let me tell you, there was more than enough food. One of the side dishes could even have been ordered as a meal in and of itself! Again, these are served family style and are more easily shareable than the appetizers.
Chargrilled Cornish Hen, with sabzi sauce, toum, and fried leek. I promise, there is a tiny little bird under that mound of fried leek. I was a little afraid of this dish when I ordered it because I haven’t had a lot of great experiences with the small game hen (think lots of little bones), so I was delighted to find that it came served de-boned and butterflied. Despite the convenience, the leek kind of overpowered the hen, in both plating and flavor.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts, mixed with Haloumi cheese, tahini, and yogurt. Brussels have been a standard side dish on most Miami menus for years now, and this one is a welcome addition to the club.
Roasted Snapper, smothered in chraimeh sauce and house yogurt. Not gonna lie, the sauce was a little intense for me, but the fish was cooked to perfection. It also helped to cut the sauce with some rice (see next photo).
Sweet Jewelled Rice, with carrots, saffron, barberries, and almonds. This rice would be the perfect accompaniment to any entree dish, in any restaurant, anywhere. It’s like a Mediterranean fried rice (except, not fried) that merges sweet and savory spices and chewy and crunch textures. I died and went to rice heaven.
Now, for dessert, do yourself a favor and step outside of your comfort zone. Don’t fall into the easy, chocolate trap because Byblos’ non-traditional desserts are no joke.
The Yogurt Mousse, which sits atop a pistachio cake with orange blossom water, pomegranate molasses, and Paradise Farms flower jam, is basically like your breakfast Greek yogurt that just got laid for the first time and finally learned how to embrace and show off all of its best assets.
And then, the Pizzelle… Oh, the Pizzelle!!! All I can do is tell you the ingredients, because adjectives don’t exist to properly describe this dessert. So you’ll have to just make due with baklava ice cream, salted caramel, and cous cous praline. An ice cream sandwich to end all ice cream sandwiches.
Finally, I just want to make a quick comment about the wine program. Byblos counts on an in-house sommelier who is great at explaining the different wines they have available. And I do mean different. Have you ever had a Lebanese wine before? Me neither!
Or, if you’re in the mood for cocktails, try one of Byblos’ signature cocktails and cocktail teas. Yes, you read that correctly…cocktail teas are now a thing.
Mitch’s take: Simply A-mezze-ing! Step up from the street food and check this place out. You won’t be disappointed.
Standout dishes: Dessert first: the Pizzelle is a must order. Second, the Sweet Jewelled Rice. And, third, the Lamb Ribs – just be sure to order a few because one is definitely not enough.
*Speaking of waiters, I need to give a shout out to my waiter Edgar. While the staff was stellar as a whole, Edgar’s attention to detail and genuine care for providing me with a top-level experience went above and beyond. He offered up, without a doubt, some of the best service I’ve ever received in Miami. Thanks, Edgar!