A couple of weeks ago, my good mate Duncan suggested we all head to the new show by Cirque Du Soleil. I had seen OVO posters all over the streets but it never really registered. I'm not sure why though because it's exactly the kind of thing I would enjoy. As a generalization, I'm impressed by any remarkable feats of human physical achievement. Male artistic gymnastics is one of my favorite (and only) Olympic events to watch.
We got there early in time for a couple of drinks before settling into the show. It was incredible. I felt like a kid seeing magic tricks performed for the first time ever. My mouth was basically dropped open during the entire performance. There is a tremendous amount of talent on that stage, representative of years of dedication and training. The lighting and costumes were phenomenal and the showmanship was engaging and amusing. Even the music was live orchestral! If you haven't been to one before, I would definitely recommend it.
After the show finished, we were in high spirits but feeling mighty peckish. I'd done a bit of research prior and found that several restaurants in the area were doing OVO-themed specials. I chose Byblos because it's a restaurant I've been curious about in the past. The two-for-one cocktail special for OVO ticket holders didn't hurt either.
Byblos is a Lebanese restaurant with an amazing spot right by the water at Hamilton, Portside. We were presented with a book of menu options. No one was in the mood to make decisions so Marc had the brilliant idea of ordering two platters for 2. Solved! That was the ordering process done and dusted.
Zombie on fire
When it comes to dinner with friends, food is only half the equation. We got right into the cocktails. I had the Evening Star (smelt weird but tasted good), Renae the Menage a Trois (the lavender reminded us of soap too much) and the boys ordered the Zombie (tasted like Thailand i.e. very boozy with a splash of cordial... but it arrived on fire, which is kind of cool). The drinks took some time to get to us even though it wasn't very busy when we were there. Maybe lighting cocktails is more time-consuming than we think.
2 platters for two
Our dinner arrived in 2 towers. I thought the presentation was like a unisex version of high tea: 3 tiers of food. Where the dainty sweets and crust-free sandwiches in high tea are almost exclusively targeted to females, this contained enough meat and deep-fried pastries to accomodate everyone.
Lebanese flatbread - with tabouleh and hommos
We started at the top plate because it contained tabouleh, hommos and flatbread, which to me is starter-style food. Renae and I agree that the combination of flavors was really good. I eat wraps almost every day for lunch so when I see flatbread and stuff that goes with it, it's natural instinct for me to wrap it up.
Flatbread with tabouleh and hommos
I made mini wraps with the tabouleh, hommos and bits of chickpea and tomato inside. Delicious. There were some complaints going around our table that Byblos were making us 'work for our food' because of the effort it takes to dip and wrap. Duncan commented "we just want to get the food into our stomach". I don't believe that is a fault of the restaurant, more an indicator of how hungry/lazy we were :).
Lahim meshwi, shish tawook, tomato and onion spiced Lebanese bread and house-made garlic sauce
The next tier contained all the juicy stuff that the guys were probably most keen on; namely meat on sticks. I found it cute that on the plate, they were tucked away under another layer of flatbread. My drunken self thought "aww... pizza blankets"... and then proceeded to eat them. The meat was a bit cold by the time we had gotten to them. Maybe we should have started at the bottom. Anyway, I liked the lamb. I'm a fan of lamb. This plate contained a dip that the waitress warned was "very garlicky". Over this past year I've progressed from "I like garlic but I prefer not to eat it" to "I don't really like garlic but I'll eat it if I have to" to "garlic and I need to be in different rooms". Marc said "the garlic dip tastes like garlic, mixed with different types of garlic". Needless to say, I steered clear of that dip.
The garlic fans (aka everyone else in our group) adored it, especially with the lamb, and spent a good few minutes breathing on each other (and in Marc's case, on me) for amusement. As a garlic-hater, I shudder at that memory.
Lahim bil aljeen, rekakat and fatayer
Finally, we ended up on the bottom tier, which contained the pastries. I LOVED the rekakat, filled with two types of cheese and onion. It was basically fried cheese with a crispy shell, which in my mind is about the greatest winning combination ever. Marc thought it was too cheesy - shock horror! The lahim bil aljeen didn't make much of an impression on me but the guys thought the fataya tasted like tea. I thought they were full of it until I smelt it and agreed! How strange.
We had an overall good impression of Byblos. Even though it was quiet when we got there, there's something about the atmosphere and style of food that gives it a party vibe. I think this would be a nice spot for a function. Duncan said he was impressed by the food. I liked the flatbread starter and the rekakat best. The staff were tonnes of fun - jokey and casual, which added to the happy experience.