Byblos: Fine Lebanese Dining Flourishes Near Madison Square Park
The area around Madison Square Park has become a mecca for fine dining the past few years, and now you can add Byblos, a stylish Lebanese restaurant, to the area's mix. Byblos offers old-world Middle Eastern cuisine accompanied by live music most nights and a great lunch special each day from noon-3 p.m. It is open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner, a rare find in this mixed commercial and emerging residential neighborhood. The service at Byblos is excellent; the wait staff and ownership are attentive and concerned that all diners have a first-class dining experience. They recently moved to the 80 Madison Ave. location (between 28th and 29th streets, next to the upscale Carlton Hotel). The owner and his wife (Saba and Sonia Kachouh) are at the restaurant most days, ensuring top-notch service and overseeing the live entertainment. And then, of course, there's the food-a wide variety of Middle Eastern dishes ranging from Lebanese staples like tabbouleh and hummus to more exotic fare like kafta khoush kash, a seasoned ground meat with parsley and onions and an added spicy sauce. There is a large range of salads and hot appetizers: Some of our favorites include the fattoush salad (Byblos special), a chopped Middle Eastern salad with toasted pita on top; the jawaneh, chicken wings sauteed with cilantro, garlic and lemon (a tangy and tasty mix); and falafel (small, round deep-fried patties made of chickpeas and coriander served with a tasty tahini sauce). On the cold-appetizer menu are many delicious varieties of hummus (pine nuts, tahini and meat are a few of the optional ingredients), other favorites like batinjan makdous (pickled baby eggplant with walnuts and garlic), and one of their specialties: garlic labne with walnuts (thick creamy cheese with an added flare of garlic). The meat staples at Byblos are grilled and made delicious by the Lebanese seasonings and the added rice and vegetables. Our favorites include the delicious grilled lamb chops and the mixed grill (one skewer each of shish kebab, shish taouk and kafta kebab). There are also great seafood dishes liked grilled striped bass and grilled tilapia (fresh fish filet dressed with lemon and garlic); my dining partner said the latter was very good, but I can't personally attest to it due to my fish allergy. The Byblos bakery is chock-full of great pastries and pies such as Byblos kallage (pita bread stuffed with goat's milk cheese and grilled) and meat pies (dough filled with seasoned meat and pine nuts). Byblos has a very affordable $16.50 lunch special each day, which includes a soup or salad, one entree and coffee or tea. The Byblos Deluxe Dinner is a smorgasbord of delectable appetizers, choice of an entree and coffee and dessert, all for $42.95 per person. Byblos is a great find for all midtown diners searching for authentic Lebanese food and ambiance. Byblos Restaurant, 80 Madison Ave. (between 28th and 29th streets), open daily for lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sundays. They also do corporate catering and private events. Call 212-687-0808 or visit www.byblosny.com.
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