Byblos: Mezze and Turkish Cuisine on Miami Beach
As Miami continues its fascination with the flavors of the world, clearly establishing itself as an international dining destination, Byblos, opened over the summer in the 1940’s Shorecrest Hotel next to the Royal Palm Hotel, has brought Turkish, Lebanese, African and Eastern Mediterranean flavors to Miami Beach.
This unique and flavorful cuisine is not of the traditional Mediterranean fare of hummus, baba ganoush or gyro, but a wonderful and creative mix of ingredients that include mint, chick peas, red chili, molasses, yogurt and many colorful and fragrant spices one can almost envision seeing in a Turkish street market.
The bi-level restaurant is all that remains of the original Shorecrest Hotel and the original terrazzo floor and interior has been transformed into a beautiful and very special bar and dining rooms with comfortable couch seating, stylish lighting fixtures, mirrors, and colorful wall art and hangings.
We dined upstairs in the Mezze bar, where the menu offered some familiar dishes, but many we had to inquire about from our server. Labneh, Lebanese cream cheese and similar to Greek yogurt was suggested as was The Turkish Manti, a delicate lamb dumpling in smoky eggplant, yogurt and molasses sauce. Since each manti is hand-made, it is said that in Turkey the smaller the manti the more desirable as each becomes a personal work of art. I wish I had known that ahead of time as I think we gobbled them up rather than savoring and appreciating them for their delicate look.
The Eggplant Kibbeh, was another choice suggested by our server. Kibbeh is a classic Middle Eastern dish of chopped lamb or beef that mixed with spices is fried into a ball or what looks like a croqueta. At Byblos, the eggplant replaced the meat and was stuffed into a lightly fried zucchini blossom and topped lightly with a spiced chickpea and house-made yogurt sauce.
Shashouka, the Israeli tomato and egg dish which has been popping up on a number of menus in Miami area as a breakfast or brunch item ,was served in it’s own cast iron pan.
Tuna ceviche was our least favorite dish, although flavorful in a green buttermilk dressing, the cubed raw tuna lost its flavor in the sauce.
Two salads, the Heirloom Tomato and Fattouche salad paid nice homage to the vine-ripened local tomatoes and were both colorful and full of fresh ingredients and in a light lemony olive oil dressing.
Once again, we had to call our server over to explain what a Pide was. Forget about pizza, it’s all about Turkish Pide now. A long thin flat bread is stuffed with ingredients like mushrooms, spinach, feta cheese, goat cheese and spices. We chose two Pides, the Mushroom Truffle Pide with buffalo mozzarella and the Sujuk Pide, which is a Turkish spiced sausage with feta. Both were delicious and a good dish to share.
Main dishes include eight seafood choices ranging from Gulf Shrimp , Spanish Octopus to Branzino and Red Snapper. Meat dishes include Lamb Chops, Cornish Hen and Rib-eye. But all are uniquely spiced and/or with yogurt or chick-pea dressing. Honestly, we only ordered Mezze so cannot comment on the Large dishes , but they sounded and looked delicious as we saw them served at neighboring tables.
Also never made it to dessert, but once again the menu offered some different and authentic sounding choices including my weakness of ice cream in flavors like Turkish Apricot, Spanish Saffron and Paradise Farms Flower.
The bar gets busy offering a unique assortment of cocktails, and by 8 pm the restaurant buzzing with every table filled, so make sure you make reservations.
Byblos is open for dinner 6-11 Sun-Thursday and 6-12 Friday-Saturday.
1535 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL
Discounted Valet parking is available at Royal Palm Hotel next door.