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I had great expectations coming to this restaurant as I loved what Charles Kabouth and Hanfi Harji did with Patria: the décor and food were so thoughtful and well executed.

Byblos is a stunning space on several levels, each transports you immediately to another world with it’s soft colours, geometric window screens, comfortable semi circular booths and spectacular lighting; the designers from Commute House hit a home run here.

Exotic cocktails tempt with names like Gulab, a rosehip vodka & pomegranate reduction served on crushed ice in a julep glass, and the Ten Suns, a green tea vodka, lemongrass, ginger, yuzu juice and cardamom creation.

Stuart Cameron, executive chef at Patria, is behind the menu here again encouraging the family style eating which seems to be the trend these days and allows the kitchen to send dishes out in any order they wish.

A blend of influences from Morocco, Turkey, and Israel keep you guessing, and one is surprised and delighted time and again. It’s hard to decide between the housemade labneh with fennel, honey, and olive oil, or the roasted beets and pistachios with labneh – I recommend both! Both are served with their barber which is baked daily at Patria then brushed with olive oil and dukah.

I’d also like to applaud the chef for the number of vegetarian and seafooddishes on the menu – such a nice change from all the meatcentric restaurants out there today.

Grilled octopus with a Turkish spoon salad where the octopus was tender beautifully seasoned was a favourite, as was the Acharuli, a brioche pocket filled with cheese, quails eggs and za’atar with great contrast in textures and very comfortingly more-ish. Jeweled Persian rice made to order was well seasoned with sweet jewels of pomegranate and crunch of pistachios in this saffron scented dish are a must.

There are also several meat dishes that shouldn’t be missed like the pork-belly-like lamb ribs and the 2 day slow roasted lamb served with lavish squares and a variety of pickled vegetable and sauces.

Desserts run from housemade burnt honey ice cream to chocolate mouse with crushed baklava and pistachio mouse cake topped with Turkish delight cotton candy: an absolute dream for any sweet teeth out there.

One of my few criticisms of the restaurant is the volumn and selection of music as it leans a bit towards the nightclub vibe and I think if it were toned down it would make many diners happier. That being said I encourage you to visit Byblos at your next opportunity and appreciate what Khabouth, Harji and Cameron are doing for the restaurant scene in Toronto.

BYBLOS

11 Duncan St.
Toronto, ON M5V3M2
Canada

(647) 660-0909

Hurray! The long May weekend has arrived – at least here in Canada, our American neighbours still have a few days to wait – and with it the first waves of fresh seafood are flooding into the fishmongers. Right now spot prawns are taking centre stage: juicy, delectable and oh-so “more-ish”, they’re best when served as simply as possible without too much to mask their gorgeous flavour. Try them as a quick peel-and-eat snack with cold beers on the patio, or as an appie to the big BBQ main event. Just be sure not to overcook – they really take but a minute or two to be cooked perfectly. This aioli is a perfect accompaniment as well – you can adjust the spiciness with the sambal (chile past) to match your taste. It’s also great with grilled chicken so feel free to make more than needed and keep it on hand this weekend for a quick-grab condiment.

Serves 4 as an après dinner snack – multiply as necessary.

  • 2 lbs spot prawn tails
  • 1 large pot boiling water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. Greek style yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. good quality mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. sambal oolek
  • 1 tsp. fresh orange zest
  • 2-3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro finely minced

Add sea salt to the boiling water and then drop prawns in. Boil for 2-3 minutes maximum – do not overcook. Plunge prawns into ice bath (bowl of cold water and ice cubes); remove when cooled and hold in fridge until ready to serve.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl; chill and serve along side prawns. Enjoy!

 

 

Time to fire up the grill! This is my husband’s (G.L. are his initials) surefire method to impress anyone who likes lamb. If you haven’t tried a lamb burger, you’re in for a treat and will be hard pressed to go back to beef burgers. The secret is that ground lamb has a fair amount of fat, and that’s always the key to juicy burgers. These days, everyone buys extra-lean ground beef, but unfortunately fat equals flavour, and an extra-lean burger tends to be dry when cooked through. Lamb burgers, when cooked properly, always stay juicy and flavourful.

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 1/2 lb (1.25 kg) ground lamb
  •  sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  •  6 good-quality crusty hamburger rolls
  •  5 oz (150 g) feta cheese (preferable sheep’s milk)
  •  1/2 cup (125 mL) mayonnaise
  •  1/3 cup (75 mL) mint jelly 

Preheat the barbecue to medium-low.

Using your hands, gently mix the lamb with salt and pepper to taste. Form into 6 patties (the patties may seem very generous, but the meat will shrink a lot during cooking). Place on the grill and cook until juices run clear, 5 to 6 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

Slice the rolls in half; toast rolls, cut side down, on the grill just until slightly brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, blend the feta with the mayonnaise. While meat is still warm, slather with the feta mixture. Spread a generous amount of mint jelly on each toasted roll; place the burgers in the rolls and serve.

**Extra recommended toppings: heirloom tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pickled pink onions

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