Saturday, October 1, 2011

Byblos Cafe, Tampa, FL

Hey...who's in the mood for some LEBANESE food? Don't everyone raise their hands at once. I know the very idea might send some readers skittering to the nearest Crapplebees, but there's no need. The cuisine is delish and not scary in the least...even for the unadventurous eater.

UD and I hit Byblos in the late afternoon on the first coolish (meaning a high of 85), low humidity day since March and made ourselves comfy on the shady outdoor patio overlooking MacDill. Since we were venturing into the nicer section of town, I had my redneck roots touched up for the occasion. We were immediately pleased by the fact that there was a nice selection of wines by the glass with many good ones in the $6-$8 range (bonus points).

Our beautiful and capable server, Gigi, took great care of us. A not-particularly-inspiring basked of cold pita bread and some relatively unmemorable dipping oil were presented right off the bat.

Moving ahead, things started improving almost immediately. The Arayess (Kafta on Pita) consisted of ground beef, parsley, tomato, and onion grilled in pita bread topped with special seasoning. I loved these things...think "Mediterranean Sliders". Even the most tentative palate can handle me.

The crispy fried Eggplant Appetizer which was served with roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella and a side of homestyle balsamic vinagerette was a beautiful thing and UD's favorite of the evening. Eggplant is my most beloved veggie anyway, and this was a fantastic rendition.

We also tried the Fatayer, which was a thin, crispy home-made dough stuffed with feta cheese and ricotta cheese mixed with olive oil. How could this be bad, you ask? It couldn't be. It was an interesting Middle Eastern take on fried cheese which was somewhat reminiscent of a an eggroll or chimi stuffed with gooey dairy goodness.

The Chicken Wings Lebanese were plump, unbreaded, super crispy and both marinated in cilantro, garlic and lemon juice and served in said manner. They were SO good...but not for a first date. Just sayin'. Only order this if you're single or have been married for at least five years. There was some serious garlic overload going on here.

Dessert time. UD ordered a Baklava combo (one piece with pistachios and one with walnuts...a third pine nut offering was available as well). These were light and flaky, with a heavy ratio of nut filling to phyllo and not cloyingly over-sweetened with honey. Two thumbs up...and it was just the right size for a post pig-out sweet bite.

I was feeling a little cranky about not having gotten to enjoy one of my Med faves...Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), so I ordered that for my dessert. They were beautiful and served warm, pleasing plump with spiced rice, parsley and tomato, garnished with yogurt.

Byblos has a very relaxing vibe and good food at reasonable prices. If you don't eat meat, you'll find a broader than average selection of vegetarian options here. All of this plus four glasses of wine set us back about $65 before tip. Take your tastebuds out on a won't be sorry.

Byblos Cafe on Urbanspoon

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