Miami Spice is a great way to try new restaurants or revisit old favorites for a reasonable price ($39 for dinner). However, it's not so great when restaurants try to get away with serving customers dishes prepared with less expensive and lower-quality products than they would serve patrons ordering off the regular menu. When this is the case, you don't really get to experience the restaurant, which kind of defeats the purpose of Spice. But with regard to Byblos' Miami Spice menu, general manager Serkan Sener says they're committed to offering Spice diners the best of what the Eastern Mediterranean eatery has to offer. That includes listing only items that are either on or will soon appear on the regular menu.
Byblos' focus is on interpreting dishes from Levantine culture, found mostly in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and parts of southern Turkey. The Miami restaurant is located in the Royal Palm South Beach and is an offshoot of the original in Toronto. This summer marks Byblos' second year participating in Miami Spice, and if you didn't get to try it last year, don't miss the colorful and fun space this year. There's even a late-night lounge within the eatery, so you can eat and party without having to move very far. New Times was invited to preview the Miami Spice menu (the two-month promotion officially kicks off August 1). Here are some highlights:
Byblos is all about mezzes — small plates — which is why instead of getting to select only one appetizer, each diner can choose two. The restaurant is well-known for its lamb ribs, which were described in a previous review as being "spicy, sweet, tender, and toothsome." The meat is cooked sous vide for 24 hours before being brushed with carob molasses. It's then dipped in dukka, an Egyptian spice blend of toasted nuts and seeds, which lends a lovely crunchiness to the protein. These ribs are, in short, amazing. Another great starter is the zucchini flower — stuffed with eggplant kibbeh, delicately fried in chickpea batter, and served atop house-made yogurt that nicely complements the dish.
The falafel salad with green goddess dressing is a recent addition to Byblos' menu. This fresh dish has a crisp-crunchy mix of textures. And what a smart idea to add some pickled onions and brioche croutons for extra pizzaz and complexity.
Executive chef Stuart Cameron came up with the short-rib kebab for Miami Spice, and if customers respond positively, it will become a regular fixture on the menu. This main course is delicious, with the crunchy green beans providing a nice contrast to the lightly spiced and tender meat.
Each Spice patron can choose one entrée. To try more of the menu, you and your dinner guests can each order something different and share, so don't bring anyone stingy with their food. Don't miss the yogurt-baked mahi-mahi with toasted bread crumbs and walnuts in a brown butter sauce. This is no boring fish — it's quite decadent, in fact, and you'll want to scoop up the remaining sauce with a spoon.
Each main dish comes with a choice of side dish, and it's hard to resist Byblos' fries. These crisp "chips," as they are called on the menu, are seasoned with za'atar and come with the most amazing tahini dipping sauce. Other side options are hand-rolled couscous, green beans, and seared cauliflower.
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For dessert, the hands-down winner is the baklava ice-cream sandwich. Tasty ice cream comes wedged into a salted caramel-and-couscous praline. It's both original and incredibly wonderful. How do you say "More, please" in Turkish?