Miami is definitely having a Mediterranean moment, and the new restaurant, Byblos, at the Royal Palm hotel in South Beach, is a dining treasure. Named after one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Byblos opened over the summer and focuses on the flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean with creamy dips, marinated meats, basmati rice and colorful plating. There is a bustling lounge downstairs (fitting for South Beach’s party crowd) and a stunning, sensual dining room upstairs.
When it comes to cocktails, beauty abides in a glass at Byblos. I suggest starting with the Gulab, a blend of rose-infused vodka and pomegranate syrup served over crushed ice in a dainty silver cup and topped with an edible flower. The rose water makes the booze almost undetectable, allowing the drink to slide down a little too easily.
Another highlight of the cocktail menu is the spiked tea service, where cold tea is served from a beautiful Moroccan silver tea set. My favorite was the Habibi Marguerite, a Mediterranean twist on a classic margarita made with chili-spiced strawberry tea, lime and tequila reposado, cilantro and spicy fresco chili. It’s light and refreshing with a slight kick and is the perfect start or ending to a meal. It’s also served with a dish of strawberries soaked in a sugary glaze.
Meals begin with mezze (small plates) and then progress with larger dishes served family-style. We started off with the unique Turkish Mandi Dumplings filled with eggplant in a yogurt sauce and molasses. The delicate dumplings are bursting with sweet, salty and smoky flavors. We also indulged in the Grass-Fed Steak Tartare with roasted red chili and mint, which takes on new meaning with the creamy labneh, a yogurt cheese similar to Greek yogurt.
Although they are heavier dishes, the wood-fired pides will make you forget you ever loved boring flatbreads. Try the Black Truffle Pide stuffed with delicious halloumi.
There is also a large selection of Persian rice dishes on the menu. While rice is usually just, well, rice, the colorful Sweet Jeweled Rice with carrot, barberries, saffron and almonds is a gem of a dish and a must-order for the table. One of my favorite entrees was the Yogurt Baked Fluke with toasted breadcrumbs and brown butter. It’s flaky, buttery and one of the most original fish dishes I’ve ever tasted.
Be careful: Some of the ingredients (like yogurt) at Byblos may seem a little repetitive after a while, so choose wisely and widely. Overall, the dishes and superb service will wow you and make for a memorable meal. Whatever you do, don’t miss this Mediterranean moment!
1545 Collins Avenue