[Miami Beach, Florida] Byblos


(John Hartley) #1

Byblos isn’t a Middle Eastern restaurant offering the traditional fare that you might see in a Lebanese/Syrian/Palestinian place . So, don’t expect long lists of reasonably priced mezze items, backed up by extensive use of lamb/goat for main courses, with lots of flatbread. Instead, it uses the region’s spices and flavourings in dishes which, at first glance, might seem quite westernised - even Americanised with a quite extensive use of beef as the meat.

It’s only been open a couple of month, so might still be in the process of bedding down. In which case, I have a suggestion for them. Although the Miami Spice event had finished at the end of September, they were still running with their set menu. I really think they should continue with that format , alongside their main menu. For $39, it allows the diner to pick three mezze items as starters, followed by a main course, one side and dessert. It meant that, for the two of us, we could turn dinner into the proper mezze sharing experience that we are familiar with and enjoy.

So, to start in no particular order, there were olives, marinated in lemon & chilli. And strips of squid deep fried in a light batter, marinated tomatoes, labneh and a lovely duck kibbeh. There was also something described as an eggplant kibbeh but simply wasn’t. Instead it was courgette flower stuffed with the aubergine and raisins, dipped in a chickpea batter and deepfried.

For main, there was pan fried red snapper with chermoula on top and an excellent braised lamb shoulder, the meat just falling apart. We’d consulted on sides and agreed that couscous and green beans, mixed with tomato, fenugreek and almonds) would be right with both dishes. And so they were.

For desserts, there was a watermelon sorbet that was pretty much essence of watermelon. I’m used to seeing fatayer on Lebanese menus – crisp pastry filled with lamb or vegetables but here it came filled with Turkish Delight. And unusual and entirely successful end to the meal.

This is really good food and I can thoroughly recommend it on that level, particularly if they continue with the set menu concept. Otherwise, ordering from the main menu could turn this into a fairly expensive meal, even if going down the westernised three courses route. And, to my mind, it just won’t be as satisfactory. Service, by the way, is very good. It’s something of a team effort – whilst you have a lead server, crew members attending other tables are as likely to bring food or remove dirty crockery. The team input is recognised by the addition of a 19% service charge, rather than relying on old fashioned direct tipping.