The Entertainment District’s latest scene stealer: the Mediterranean fare at Byblos.
Byblos manages a difficult feat, coaxing theatregoers rushing to make curtain into slowing down. It’s no wonder, though: the two-storey homage to eastern Mediterranean cuisine in the 170-year-old Storys building feels laid back and authentic, offering family-style dining downstairs and in a speakeasy-ish lounge above. The distinct look of each room is courtesy of Commute Design, the savvy lighting and reclamation firm behind the soaring decor of nearby Patria.
A few steps down from the street, the updated dining room opens to exposed, whitewashed brick and a trio of barrel-vaulted ceilings. A kitchen island runs the length of the room, and is splashed with repeating fractals of soft white stone tile that nod to geometric Middle Eastern patterns. Throughout, glass hookahs, vintage silver and pewter serveware, and intricately cast porcelain pendants (rebuilt from English bone-china table lamps sourced from vintage shops in Montreal) vie with skeletal gilded steel lighting, Commute’s industrial touch.
Upstairs, dusky light filters through copper and bronze panels, while worn leather bar stools, oiled oak floors and cracked patinated walls make Byblos look as though its been serving Sazeracs since prohibition.
Executive Chef Stuart Cameron, who also runs the kitchens at Weslodge and Patria, deftly prepares authentic, aromatic fare. Tangy Barbari flatbread is the perfect vehicle for honeyed, ethereally light labneh ($6) – strained yogurt, for the uninitiated. Impossibly fragrant, sweet jewelled basmati rice ($16) is studded with almonds and tart barberries. It’s an understated accompaniment to the dry-aged rib-eye swimming in za’tar-spiked butter ($39). Wash it all down with an across the sea ($14) – a marriage of mellow mojito and ginger beer. byblostoronto.com
11 Duncan St, 647 660 0909, Mon-Sat 5:00 – close.
Originally published in our Fall 2014 issue.