- Address: 11 Duncan St, Toronto
- Visited: 01/11/2018, Dinner, 4 people
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Rating: 3.0 5.0 Excellent, worth every $
4.5 Good, food & value
4.0 Good, but $$, would re-visit
3.5 Meh, good $, would re-visit
3.0 Meh, would not re-visit
2.0 Did not like $$$ [$] <20; [$$] <40; [$$$] <80; [$$$$] >80
- Website: http://byblostoronto.com/
Byblos is one of the vegetarian friendly restaurants I’ve been wanting to try out for years now with my friend and her fiance. It’s taken us this long to actually go because securing a reservation at the restaurant has been impossible with less than a week’s notice, sometimes even two or three for a Friday night. I had much better luck aiming for a Thursday night, which was still fully booked by the night of.
Atmosphere: The unassuming facade led to an intimate and vibrant restaurant decorated with geometric tiles and a beautiful wall length bar. Lighting was dim, which helped make every table feel more private, and the round tables were paired with cozy large chairs. Most of the diners were dressed up a bit more than t-shirts and tables really filled up at 8pm. That night, no walk-ins were accepted.
Service: Our server was friendly and professional, starting with asking if it was our first time at the restaurant. Once we all nodded yes, she explained the menu in detail and pointed out the dishes that were strictly vegetarian. With the menu being tapas style, she also made a recommendation on how many we should order from each section of the menu and explained some of the more exotic ingredients. Dishes arrived quickly and were sent out coordinated in two courses. During our meal, my friend recognized another diner who was meeting someone for dinner. He came by our table to say hi and our server quickly pulled up an extra seat for him, without any prompting so we could chat while he waited.
Food: The dish sizes at Byblos were on the smaller side and we were recommended to order 3-4 plates per person to have a satisfying meals. I would also say that the plates were also on the pricier end of the scale as well for the portion size so I’d categorize the restaurant as more of a special occasion or date night vs everyday dinner.
For the 4 of us, we picked a few balance of dishes to share between the meat eaters and enough vegetarian dishes for my friend’s fiance. To start we ordered the Citrus Mixed Olive, Roasted Red Beets, Eggplant Kibbeh and Turkish Manti Dumplings (filled with smoky eggplant). The olives were good, a mix of varieties with some very large, meaty ones. I really enjoyed the beets, which were bursting with flavour and so sweet. I also loved the barbari bread that came with the dish, delicious dipped in the labneh with beet juice. Between the two eggplant dishes, I much preferred the Kibbeh that was flavourful and crunchy without being oily. The manti were good, the more filling dish, but I found the flavours all muddled together with each bite.
To share, we ordered two of the “larger” plates, the Tah Dig (basmati rice with braised lamb) and Middle Eastern Fried Chicken. I’d skip the fried chicken, it was ok but for the price, Stephen’s fried chicken is pretty tasty. A warning on the hot sauce though, it packed a lot of heat. If you’re going to try it, start with one single drop. I also found the Tah Dig to be disappointing. The dish was served upside down with the topping underneath a bed of crispy rice. While the lamb was tender and flavourful, there just wasn’t that much of it and once split 4 ways, I didn’t taste much of the other ingredients.
We rounded out our meal with a plate of Mejadra (lentils), a Chanterelle Mushroom Pide and side of Seared Cauliflower. Both the texture and flavour of the pide won me over, reminding me almost of a paratha, while the cauliflower sounded better on paper then executed. With duck fat, tahini and sesame, I thought the side would be a sure win, but the texture of the cauliflower didn’t quite fit the heaviness of the sauce. The lentil dish was a good filler, not memorable.
Overall, the dishes I liked at Byblos, I really liked while the rest were lacklustre. When you order over 10 dishes though, that’s not a super surprising outcome, but I had high expectations. If you have an appetite, be prepared for a hefty bill to leave full. If you’re stopping by for a snack and drinks, there are some true gems on the menu (beets, eggplant and pide), the service was amazing and the decor beautiful.