This won't be a full review as I had already eaten dinner somewhere else but I ended up here a few days ago both curious and cautious. I only tried a few dishes and had a couple of drinks.
Contrary to at least one write-up the decor and vibe are not Middle Eastern in any way.
Service was good. Very attentive, however, not properly trained in pronouncing their own dishes properly.
Duck Kibbeh - Filling very dry. All the same consistency which I would call mushy. Crust was passable. Dish had a cloying sweetness that I don't understand.
Shakshouka - Tomatoes tasted canned. No depth of flavour or spicing of any kind. Not served with any bread. Someone saw that we didn't have any and offered to bring us some immediately. Bread was covered in oil and seasoned with dukkah. Not the right bread to serve with shakshouka. Seasoning overpowered any flavour one might get from the dish.
Turkish Manti Dumplings - eggplant filling had no flavour whatsoever. Sweetness from molasses was too much. Not sure why this dish even has a hint of sweetness but if it's going to have it I would prefer the yogurt to be somewhat tangy so the flavours could play off each other. Not sure of the type of yogurt used but definitely not a Middle Eastern or eastern Mediterranean style.
North Wind cocktail - all I could taste was the mastiha liquor. What is the point of adding fernet branca and chartreuse?
After perusing the wine list it's abundantly clear they didn't put much effort into procuring wines from the Middle East/eastern Mediterranean. A few Greek and Lebanese wines. Maybe one Israeli and no Turkish offerings.
I wanted some arak/ouzo/raki to finish off my meal. They offer the Arak Ritual on the cocktail menu but it is served with raw sugar which I had no interest in. I inquired as to what type of arak's they had and I was presented with a bottle of Gantous & Abou Raad and asked to have it in a glass straight up. I think that was the only thing served to me that I was not disappointed by as I know it quite well.
Unfortunately, I was charged the full cocktail price of the Arak Ritual for the one shot of arak I had.
Where are the ouzo's from Greece, the raki's from Turkey and the arak's from Lebanon/Israel?
I won't even start a discussion about authenticity.
What can I say, I didn't really expect much from Charles Khabouth and it seems that opinion has been reaffirmed.
Thanks for the review. I was initially intrigued to hear about this place and thought maybe given Khabouth's Lebanese background the place would try to provide both style and 'authenticity' but it sounds like that hasn't happened. Then again what can you expect from someone who names a club 'Uniun'.
District Oven looks promising as does the new hummus place opening soon.
And yes, it would be great if somewhere in Toronto served anything other than the standard LCBO supplied Ghantous arak. Tabule supposedly serves a 'premium' arak but both times I've asked they haven't had it in stock.
Saluf is extremely good -- hands down the best falafel and hummus I've ever had, superb with fresh laffa to accompany it. I've also had their shwarama, and it's great. I've probably eaten there over a dozen times, it's kind of ruined me for other middle eastern/Israeli cooking. (I recently ate at Fat Pasha for something like twice the price and half the enjoyment.)
We loved it, but weren't looking for authentic here, only a fun crowd/atmoshere, at a trendy place that I heard serves a delicious meal. And Byblos did not disappoint. Loved everything we ate...pricey as it was.
Beet salad was outstanding(just crazy good, really), the shakshouka w/ cheese was different and delicious, 2lbs of snapper was excellent but would have preferred a more reasonable sized fish for 2. 5 dishes was way too much for us with that massive snapper and would have appreciated the server stepping in and suggesting a dish less.
Service was pretty good, but far below great. There was no mid-eastern or Moroccan experience, just a flavourful fun meal out with a young crowd. Had the ginger beer drink they offered which was tasty, but yes, this place is lacking mid-east substance. However, I didn't require it.
I noticed Pai is now open across the street and it looked great in there. Can't wait to try it.
I enjoyed my dinner over the weekend at Byblos.
The highlight for me was the broiled fluke with a yogurt sauce. I rarely see fluke on the menu in Toronto and I was impressed by the complexity of the flavour.
The beet lebnah was also delicious. The hint of lemon and mint on the beet really woke up my palate.
The turkish manti dumplings were less impressive. The skin was chewy and the eggplant filling was too sweet and with nothing to counter the sweetness off.
The wine menu was lacklustre and limited by-the-glass options. I found the basement dining area a little suffocating but I heard from other diners that their upstairs is quite gorgeous- maybe next time. I will return