Review: Byblos Uptown

Tasting Byblos' new location!

Byblos Uptown is the second Toronto location of the swanky Mediterranean restaurant by the same name in the Entertainment District. Draped in handmade tapestries and vintage Persian rugs, this beautiful iteration of Byblos is actually more stylish than the first. While the two-storey restaurant downtown has a sleeker look, this 9,120 square-foot space better resembles its counterpart in Miami with its summery, Mediterranean-inspired design.

From the 19-foot arched entrance to the main dining room decor—which includes hanging tapestries courtesy of Moroccan artist LRNCE and wall plates from Creators of Objects—the restaurant is worth visiting for its lush interior alone. The open kitchen in the back is once again helmed by Chef Ben Heaton, the executive chef at other ICONINK endeavours like Figo, Patria, and Mira. It’s not too different than Byblos downtown, but the menu here does include some newly introduced items rich in pomegranate molasses, saffron, and sumac—all served on custom plates from a local potter.

Upstairs is a more secluded area where you’ll find the cocktail bar, where the bartender will mix up drinks like the boozy Uptown Girl, a play on a whisky sour with cardamom bitters and a spray of absinthe to coat the glass.

The M’taabel ($16) is a seemingly simple Syrian eggplant purée that packs the explosive flavours of smoky eggplant, roasted garlic and housemade labneh with tahini.  It’s a starter, and served with pita bread made in the restaurant’s wood-fire stove for dipping. Another appetizer, the Turkish manti dumplings ($15), are a classic Byblos dish. Stuffed with eggplant and covered in molasses and chives, the dish is so rich it almost tastes like meat. Chicken liver ($16) is a pink plate topped with date vinegar and halva, a a sweet, powdery dessert from the Levant. The fennel and kohlrabi salad ($16) is a refreshing drink with walnuts, sour cherries, and green schug dressing. Off the shareable menu is the slow-roasted lamb shoulder ($55), braised lamb that’s rolled and roasted, spiced with baharat spice blend (sort of like seven spice).

Piece off chunks of lamb to make small wraps with the house-made lavash (flatbread). Beautifully presented is the ras el hanout black cod, a colourful plate of fish in a sauce made from the ras el hanout North African spice mix. For dessert, a new addition called the strawberry pavlova is a meringue-like sphere. You can crack it open with a spoon to reveal the ice cream inside. And a chocolate sesame mousse that’s perfectly sweet. The Nightingale Sour has peach Ciroc, ginger syrup, egg yolk, and vanilla bitters.

A lovely interior and refined menu makes this Byblos a particularly good destination for special occasions, nights out, or when you want to treat yourself to a full sensory experience.

Featured on blogTO by Tonya Mok