Last week we told you that Byblos, the two-story Eastern Mediterranean restaurant from the owners of Weslodge and Patria, would be opening soon. Well, we weren’t content with the little info we had so we went straight to the source to get you the low-down on what’s sure to be T.O.’s next hottest restaurant. And after speaking with owners Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji, as well as Executive Chef Stuart Cameron, we’re very excited. Here’s why you should be too.
Predominantly Eastern Mediterranean, the completed menu should offer 25-30 dishes inspired by Moroccan, Israeli, Lebanese, Persian, and Turkish cuisine. Items such as house-made Turkish dumplings (Manti), hand-rolled couscous with brown butter, and fresh, organic yogurts are just a small introduction to what Byblos will be bringing to the table. As Harji says, “It’s all about the food. We’ve taken our time doing this. It’s been about a year in the making; we’ve travelled with our chefs, we’ve imported a lot of the products, spices, and beers to give it as much authenticity as possible.” This is about bring something new to Toronto, but making sure it’s also relevant to the food scene that already exists here. Or, as Harji puts it, “trying to bridge the gap between the two worlds.” Nearly every single menu item is made in-house, leading Chef Cameron to sum it up this way: “It’s simple, but it’s hard in a way… doing everything from scratch is kind of hard, but the way the dishes are done is very kind of simple.” His point is that when you’re living by the philosophy “If we can make it, we’ll make it,” every plate has come a long way just to reach your table.
If you still need convincing, Khabouth’s admission that he’s “Excited, very excited. And it’s tough to get me excited, you know, I’m jaded,” should probably do the trick. Look for “fresh and healthy” food with bold flavours, including flirtations with Egyptian staple spices like Za’atar, dakka, many shared plates, tea service, made to order rice dishes that feature aged basmati (think Persian pilaf), imported Lebanese beer and wine, Israeli olive oil, and so much more. As Khabouth aptly explains, “the flavours are something you will not be able to get at many other places in Toronto.”
When asked what Byblos’ personality would be, Harji doesn’t hesitate: “An old soul living in a modern age.” Which makes sense, considering the restaurant will be housed in the historic 170-year-old brick and beam building STORYS. Seating 120 over two floors, the space features a main dining room on the lower level and a large bar area with plenty of dining space on the second floor. Khabouth describes what it feels like to walk into the restaurant: “You’re going to get the full experience, you’re going to get the full Monty… you’re going to smell the food the second you walk in, you’re going to get the great service… and it’s quite different.” But while Byblos will surely deliver an all-encompassing feel, Harji wants to make sure people are paying attention to everything that’s gone into its creation. “We just want to design places that make people feel really comfortable, and introduce surfaces and finishes and lighting fixtures that they’re not used to seeing traditionally. If I can say one thing, it’s pay attention to the details,” he says. Considering they’ve had the space for two full years, we expect they’ve thought an awful lot about exactly what Byblos will deliver. And we don’t know about you, but we certainly can’t wait to experience it for ourselves when they open next week.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)