Byblos, the downtown Mediterranean go-to, delighted uptowners last month with the opening of a second Toronto location in the old North 44 spot just a short walk north of Yonge and Eglinton.
“The reception has been unbelievable,” says Hanif Harji, Byblos Uptown Toronto owner and CEO of ICONINK, who worked on this expansive new Byblos location with his partner Charles Khabouth, Chairman of ICONINK. At this point the 9,120-square-foot restaurant and venue is well-booked days in advance, but there is always the sumptuous, mirror-laden, couch be-speckled upstairs bar area for walk-ins if the dining room is full.
Following the brand’s downtown Toronto and Miami locations, Byblos’ uptown bid immediately greets its customers with a stunning 19-foot archway that hints at the muted jewel-toned colour palette that awaits them inside. Inspiration for the interior design by Studio Munge is as varied as the restaurant's cuisine. Clay rooftops that dot the shores of Lebanon served as the muse for the terracotta, peach and dusty turquoise tones that work so seamlessly in the luxurious dining room. Large and looming woven light fixtures hang from the ceiling to accent playful textiles by French-Moroccan artist LRNCE, and both design flourishes make the impossibly high ceilings at the front of the room seem almost cosy.
Byblos Uptown is a 144-seat restaurant and features a ten-seat private dining room, perfect for an intimate birthday dinner or congratulatory feast with your friends. The space also features Spanish-inspired tile flooring alongside a carefully curated selection of vintage Persian rugs. Oh and we mustn’t forget the wall plates by Canadian art collective, Creators of Objects.
“Everything you see is custom,” says Harji. “We felt that the brand was strong, and we wanted to do something really special with this space.”
The menu is designed for sharing and is comprised of sides, salads, apps, and wood-fired flatbreads. It has been put together by executive chef Ben Heaton and features timeless Byblos classics such as the Turkish manti dumplings ($15), and the roasted lamb-shoulder for two ($55). The menu also has a few exclusive treats saved for this uptown spot. Try the ras el hanout black cod ($36), a perfectly seared fillet that sits atop a creamy sauce with charred scallion, pickled lime and black olive.
“Food is my life,” beams Heaton, who has traveled all around the world, immersing himself in culture and cuisine to achieve Byblos’ unmatched menu of simple, flavour-forward dishes and diverse cooking styles. This menu, as beautiful to behold as it is delectable, “mirrors true flavours at the street levels of countries like Turkey, Israel and Dubai,” Heaton explains. “It’s my passion. I get excited about food; eating it, cooking it, perfecting it.”
The beverage program will be as thoughtful and exciting as what we’ve come to expect at Byblos’ downtown location. The cocktail list features colourful libations that are full of exotic fruit and flower water flavours. Also look out for the Turkish coffee old fashioned that has been turning heads since their opening. Byblos sommelier, Lauren Hall has constructed a well-balanced, unique wine list that both compliments the food and gives the guest a great bang for their buck, or the ability to go all out, if they should so desire.
This new impressive location will offer dinner starting at 5 p.m. seven nights a week, with plans for brunch in the spring and live music in the bar area on Friday and Saturday evenings soon.
“We want guests to leave here feeling like they’ve done something exceptional,” says Harji. “Our core value is humility. The right attitude trickles down from the top.”
Harji and Heaton, full of pride and excitement for this venture and the ones to come, hint at a few hopes for the future. “Our goal is to sign one to two new locations before 2020,” says Harji, who drops a few city options, like Boston, New York and Vancouver.
“There’s a big part of my soul in this one though,” jokes Heaton about their newest crowned jewel. Whether it’s for a casual dinner with friends, a special occasion or one of the biggest events of your life, Byblos Uptown will have you covered with everything they’ve got, every time.
By Darcy Streitenfeld
Published: January 4, 2019