Byblos is an elegant Middle Eastern restaurant perched on a quite side street just minutes from the heart of downtown Budapest. Syrian natives Osama and Mohamad Kutaini, brothers who previously worked at a nearby five star hotel restaurant, oversee the operations. The extensive menu features cold and hot mezze, salads, grilled meats, and the other usual suspects of Levantine cuisine.
During a recent meal, there was consensus at my table that the standout mezze were the wonderfully smoky mutabbal (eggplant dip similar to baba ganoush), the thick labneh (strained yogurt), and the makanek (spicy lamb sausage). Also good, though not exceptional are the falafels, and the kibbeh, which are fried lamb meatballs made with bulgur and spices. Most mezzes are priced €5-6 apiece.
I was less impressed by the mixed grilled meats on skewers (€16), which include lamb, beef, and chicken. The lamb shish kebab was flavorful, but the cubes of beef were too tough, the chicken not juicy enough. I was also expecting more from the chicken musakhan (€10), a Palestinian dish consisting of a flatbread toppped with sumac-spiced chicken. For dessert, the kanafeh (€4) and the baklava (€3) — sporting vanilla ice cream — offer the tastiest opportunities for a serious sugar-high. Fans of water pipes can smoke hookah in a range of flavors throughout the day on the upstairs level (Byblos does serve alcohol, too).
Not everything is a hit here and you can find better grilled meat at Darband, but for an all-around, comfortable Levantine dining experience in Budapest's city center, Byblos is one of the best choices right now.