1 of 2
2 of 2
Adaptability, vision and expertise turn the evolutionary wheel of the hospitality industry, but resources and connections help, too, all of which Charles Khabouth (INK Entertainment) and Hanif Harji (Icon Legacy), owners of Byblos, have in spades.
Exceptionally executed on two gorgeous levels designed by Toronto firm Commute, Byblos is a brilliant and timely reinvention. Opened as a cocktail parlour and event space late last summer, it became an eastern Mediterranean restaurant and cocktail lounge a month ago. Mediterranean flavours are hard to hate, and Middle East-influenced cuisine is shaping up to be one of the year's hottest culinary trends.
Wes Galloway, crafter of exquisite libations and all-around excellent dude, has designed the cocktail list with careful attention to the cultural flavours that influence the mezze (small plates) and shared dishes of chef Stuart Cameron.
The North Wind - Skinos Mastiha spirit (distilled from tree resin cultivated on the Greek island of Chios) doctored with Fernet Branca and green chartreuse ($16) - is exceedingly fresh and light for a coupe full of booze. The Ten Suns - green-tea infused vodka, lemon-grass/ginger honey, yuzu and cardamom tincture, $14 - is one of the loveliest vodka cocktails I've had in a while. Galloway's components are varied but integrated, making Byblos one of the few places I'd actually order a cocktail with dinner. A daily punch bowl accommodates larger parties of three to six diners.
There's also arak ($12), a Levantine anis spirit mixed with sugar and water in a tableside ritual, and a wine list featuring Turkish, Spanish, Greek, Israeli and Lebanese bottles.
Close with authentic Turkish coffee and hightail it before the tables behind the second-floor bar stools start filling up for bottle service. Or just say screw it and party on jabroni-style.
Remember what I said about the power of adaptability? It's a bar's bread and butter - or, in this case, its barbari and labneh.
Access Six steps down to entrance.
Hours Monday to Saturday 5 pm to close.