The Brilliance Of Byblos!

It takes a LOT to impress me. I’m the sort of person that appreciates everything but I have extraordinarily high standards for myself and the things that I enjoy. For anything to be memorable it must be brilliant and different. I think the key word is different and specially when it comes to food, I’m perpetually hunting for this ” brilliantly different”. A chance meeting at an event with old school friends led to a superbly entertaining not to mention delicious dinner, and it is at this very dinner that I found my brilliantly different.

My first wow meal of 2015 was at Byblos, the new restaurant in Phoenix mills ( in place of Komala’s ) which is a superb restaurant. As always I walked into my dinner with zero expectations thought to be honest I had heard some rave reviews about the food, and I have to agree with each and every one of those reviews. My friend Divya was in town and as always we make a list of places we need to eat at together and Byblos was on our list. Coincidentally we bumped into the chef and owner Nidhi and Vidhi Behl ( who are old school pals ) and after a lot of girly chitchat and laughter we made a dinner date with the girls at their restaurant.

I finished a 12 hour work day and was exhausted beyond belief but decided to stick to our dinner plans and walked in promptly at 7pm hoping for an early night. I ended up leaving at 10 or so ( very grudgingly ) belly full and the happiest I’ve been after a meal out.

The menu at Byblos is a little difficult to fit into a type or category and that is exactly why I love it. As the name suggests, It’s heavily Middle Eastern inspired as the girls have spent a lot of their formative years there, but Chef Nidhi Behl has put her own twist and flare and created some spectacular dishes with a range of flavours. A lot of Lebanese and Arabic flavours mixed and merged to create memorably tasty dishes.

What we decided to do was a little bit of everything! Please note there were four people digging in and no, we did not finish everything!

I usually avoid cocktails because I’m like a child, they fill me up and it spoils my dinner. This time I made an exception and I’m so glad I did! They have the most divine one called Jungle Juice and for some reason I kept calling it Jungle gym ! It’s a heady potion of passion fruit, guava and pineapple juice along with white rum, dark rum and an edible flower. It’s so smooth you don’t even realize you’ve had more than one!

Nuclear Wings, which are boneless chicken pieces flavoured with teriyaki sauce and zhoug. It’s an odd combination that seems to work brilliantly. Teriyaki is a sweet flavour and zhoug is a middle eastern dip, very popular in Yemen its almost like their version of Pesto but it’s spicy so these chicken wings are sweet and spicy and just delicious.

Rock Corn with Peri Peri Fonduta is another stellar starter. It’s literally pieces of corn fused together with a spicy ( peri peri chilli ) cheese sauce ( fonduta ) so that they look like little rocks on a plate. Once again flavours that are familiar and this dish is extremely addictive.

While the first two dishes has us licking our fingers and fighting the urge to order one more of each, it’s the Byblos Mezze Platter that really won my heart. The platter has their own hummus which is beautiful and creamy, Baba ganoush which I don’t particularly care much for but I have to admit is very tasty, an onion pate which I could have happily dived into ( it’s the chef’s creation, which has strong onion and garlic flavours, the perfect dip if there ever was one ) and toum which is a Middle Eastern Garlic Dip but unlike any I’ve had. I love this dip, it’s very similar to an aioli and in most places is much thicker ( I think they might add egg white to it ) and it’s heavier as well, this one is smooth, thinner, and alarmingly deceptive because everyone thinks it’s butter.

While for most people there is always room for dessert, for me, there is always room for cheese! Slightly unconventional to have a cheese platter mid meal instead of at the end but who cares really. Their platter has almond and parsley Labneh, a savory scallion and mozzarella cake ( very different and really my kinda cake ! ) and some Brie with chilli jam.

The Edible Flower and Mesclun Salad with a citrus honey mustard dressing is a fresh light salad. A Mesclun is a french term for mixed seasonal greens, traditionally Arugula, leafy lettuce, spinach etc. This is served with some lovely edible flowers which are very popular with chefs these days, the salad had mustard flowers which are a bit pungent so you need to mix them well with the greens to eat them. The salad is clearly French inspired and even the dressing is the French style which means it’s just drizzled, the salad is not tossed.

Shawarma Plate with baby organic lamb, pomegranate couscous, charred onions and toum. The garlic dip or toum is an essential addition to meat dishes and this one is an outstanding dish. The lamb is incredibly soft, no oil or masala in the marinade so it’s not heavy, the couscous is a great alternative to bread or rice and this is a filling dish but all the ingredients work well together and while I can’t quite put my finger on it and explain why but I really enjoyed this dish.

Man’ouche margarita, slow cooked tomato sauce, pistou, mozzarella and salsa. While I appreciate the innovation and marriage of flavours, this one in particular did not work for me. I think the main thing was the salsa, I found it the tomato and onion pieces too chunky I think it would have been better to have them really finely chopped or then maybe made its a paste or sauce and smeared it over the pizza. Or then just eliminate the salsa and add another component.

Instead of ordering each as a dish seperately, we opted for a platter so we could taste most of the meat and the platter had Shish taouk, free range chicken saffron, besar spice mix – I love taouk it reminds me of an Indian Chicken tikka but of course with different spices. A Lamb Meshwi Kebab, baby lamb mince, Baharat spice, Tahini drizzle. These guys really know how to cook their lamb so once again just ridiculosuly tender meat. The third was the Maghreb Chicken tandoori, half a chicken, African Berber Spice Rub, pomegranate couscous.This was served without the couscous because it was on the platter but I suppose if you order it as a dish on it’s own it is served with it. The peri peri is a lovely spicy flavour mix and again this is like the equivalent of an Indian Tandoori chicken.

As if all this wasn’t enough, we sampled a Dessert Platter which is basically a little bit of everything they serve. It was an ideal way to sample everything but believe me, one dessert is more than enough for one person. There was Yesterday – A retro Marie biscuit and choco -fudge pudding. It’s so old school and reminds you of your very first attempt at making a pudding and it’s the perfect comfort food. Chocolate Mink which was Earl grey tea, dark chocolate ganache in a chocolate cake. This is too much chocolate for me, but an interesting dessert specially for people who enjoy Dark chocolate.
Fat Kid Love Cake ( I love the name ) is a Nutella chocolate ganache, chocolate cake which is going to destroy whatever diet your on. Again not for me because of the chocolate over load but people lap up this fat kid.

For the non chocolate lovers and interesting Trifle Redux  which is Passion fruit curd, brown butter cake and whipped cream. It’s tart and interesting but my favourite is the Melo which is a roast strawberry puree with vanilla bean ice cream and a balsamic ribbon. Maybe it’s because I enjoy strawberry but I liked this the best out of everything and surprisingly it doesn’t feel too heavy so you don’t mind eating more.

I think this formidable sister duo have an incredible zest for life and food and have gotten off to a great start with this menu. What’s really exciting is that even after a ten minute chat with Chef Nidhi, you can’t wait to explore her upcoming menus because her enthusiasm and excitement is so evident and she’s constantly talking about her experiments and dishes she’s currently working on.  Chef Nidhi has gone the extra mile to ensure her diners are served the best interms of quality. Everything at the restaurant is made inhouse, except of course for certain spices like Zataar and Sumac which need to be bought and after an extensive search they found a free range chicken supplier and over and above, she goes out of her way to explain her menu and help her diners explore their pallate.

If you’re looking for something different and tasty, Hop on over and have a meal at Byblos!

Psst – Most of the pictures in this most were taken by Divya a.k.a Blehlovesfood thanks for letting me use them 🙂