Every year, there is one new restaurant that is the hottest spot of the season. It offers just the right mix of amazing cuisine, atmosphere and cool fellow diners. The kind of place you’ll always run into the chicest people in town. While it’s still a little early to call, we think this year it might be Byblos, an import from Toronto with a soon-to-open third location in Dubai.
Although the breezy decor is Byzantine in style and reminds one of eating at a trendy restaurant somewhere in Istanbul or Lebanon, it is ultimately the food that will get and keep you here. That food is expertly prepared “Eastern Mediterranean” dishes that are wholly unique in Miami. The menu boasts a combination of regional cuisines from that part of the world, some of which come together to make something completely new, and others that represent the tastiest version of a traditional dish you’ll find anywhere.
From the time you sit down and order a Gulab cocktail made with rose-infused vodka, pomegranate with rose and lemon waters, you’ll know nothing here is quite like anywhere else. Take, for example, the organic House Labneh served with fennel, honey, olive oil and barbari bread. Or the Eggplant Kibbeh with zucchini flowers and house-made yogurt. Or the Fig Salad with orange blossom vinaigrette with ackawi cheese. All of these dishes represent the best of their kind and a culinary exploration for Miami diners that have ceviche and steakhouse fatigue.
While the main dishes are outstanding—especially the 20-oz dry-aged ribeye with Za’atar butter ($60)— it is the mezze, wood-fired breads, imaginative sides, and rice dishes might be the most fun. The Sweet Jeweled Rice has carrot, saffron, pomegranate, barberries and almonds and is also known as Persian wedding rice. The dish is so good, you’ll be married to it, forever dreaming of the next time you’ll get it. There are other rice dishes too, including Sabzi with herbs, Persian Fried Rice, and a Black Truffle incarnation that has foraged mushrooms and creme fraiche.
The biggest hurdle for Byblos will likely be the location. In the former space in the Shorecrest Hotel that was Catch, locals will have to get used to heading out to a hotspot on Collins Avenue. But the valet makes parking a breeze and the second floor location not only lets the light in, it doesn’t get in the way of their having an actual wood-burning oven.