Despite evidence to the contrary, I sometimes enjoy food other than wings. I know! I know. Blasphemy. But it’s true! Every now and then, I will go someplace interesting, different even. And no, not just pizza! Why, just last week I went to someplace exotic, with half-naked women dancing around for *entertainment purposes only*!
…no. I’m not gonna review a strip club. Though I’m sure they have great food, it’s not really my style. Instead, let’s take a look at another establishment featuring sexy dancers, Byblos Cafe.
Well that’s much classier! Contrary to popular belief, Byblos (on MacDill in South Tampa) is not a strip club! It’s just a really nice Mediterranean restaurant, with belly dancers. and apparently that’s only sometimes, because on my visit, I encountered nary a belly. In fact, I was forced to make up for the marked lack of belly dancing by getting up myself, stripping down, and shaking my hips until I was forcibly removed. Honestly, I can’t blame them… I’d say at that point I was a danger both to the other customers and myself.
But how did it get to that point? Surely there was a meal leading up to my quasi-erotic display. And that there was! A delightful meal, as I’ve come to expect from Byblos. Byblos is a maddeningly cool place, dark and comfortable on the inside with a bit of music and a lot of atmosphere. I went on a Monday night, and as a result the place was practically empty. My group was allowed to sit in a cool little recessed area ordinarily reserved for grown-ups. Clearly the host had not guessed what embarrassing antics were about to ensue. All the better for him.
We had our own small table (made up of four even smaller tables), surrounded by three cushy, pillow-laden couches on which to sit. There was a candle on the table, lamps around us, artwork… all the luxuries money could buy. I would have felt like an impostor had I not been so comfortable. The server was friendly and seemed fairly knowledgeable about the menu. We feverishly ordered a bottle of wine, and once settled, decided to go for the most exciting/expensive route, and ordered “A Taste of lebanon”:
A Taste of Lebanon
Let us introduce you to the complete authentic Lebanese dining experience. This sampling includes appetizers, salad and dinner entrees in generous portions perfect for sharing. Begin with the Byblos Mezah with Hummus, Baba Ganuj, Labneh, Kebbeh, Falafel, Grape Leaves and the Tabbouleh Salad. Entree includes a combination of the Shish Kabob, Chicken Kabob and Kafta.
Lavish. This is to be ordered at minimum by two people, coming in at $29.95 per head. So yeah it’s a bit pricey. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s more expensive than it’s worth. But you get a lot of food, and, having eaten there before, we went the smart route – we ordered for two though there were for of us, cutting the price in half, and still providing us with more food than we could finish together. This I would recommend.
First came out the (clockwise from top-left) hummus, labneh, baba ghanouj, and tabbouleh salad. And some pita bread. It’s definitely a good way to start the meal. As far as I could tell, all these dishes were good, though I don’t have much of a frame of reference for baba ghanouj or labneh. But the hummus was very good, and I loved the tabbouleh… I basically coated everything I got in it. I really enjoyed the labneh, too, but the baba ghanouj was not my thing.
Of course, when the falafel and the kebbeh came out, I was pumped. Fried food is always good food. The kebbeh was pretty delicious, a fried little ball of meat with onion and pine nuts. And the falafel was awesome. Mediterranean cuisine makes clever use of chickpeas, a food I otherwise would classify as “stupid” and “pointless”.
The ‘main course’ was a whole bunch of meats thrown in a pile covered by pita bread and dressed with some sort of red sauce, halfway between ketchup and cocktail sauce. There’s probably an actual name for it, but i’ll just call it blood for the purposes of this review. The meats included grilled chicken, kafta (a ground beef with onions parsley and seasonings), and fillet mignon. They were all very, very good. The fillet especially (though it could have been cooked a bit rarer). The kafta was very nice too. They all worked well by themselves, but we ended up throwing them together with different things like labneh or tabbouleh, covering them in blood, and making little pita sandwiches out of them.
It was around this point that we noticed there were no belly dancers (which there usually are). Then I stripped, and we got kicked out. But overall, it was a great dining experience. That is what I would stress most here. The food was very good, but it was more about the experience than anything else. It would be the perfect setting for a date, and I imagine it would be especially impressive to order the taste of lebanon for two, then demand the waiter immediately throw out everything you didn’t finish. Especially if your date hasn’t had the chance to finish. Then you’d wanna dance with the belly dancer, showing a little too much interest if you know what I mean, then vomit from too much drink. I’m good at this! I’m surprised I don’t get more dates. I’m like fuckin’ Hitch up in here.