102 Smith Street, Collingwood (map)
After two failed attempts to visit Gigibaba since it opened late last year, I was determined that nothing would stop me from dining there the third time around. Contrary to popular belief, it is not actually impossible to get in at Ismail Tosun's tiny, incredibly popular, no-bookings, modern Turkish restaurant. You just need to:
- make peace with the fact that there will almost certainly be a wait of at least 40 minutes;
- get at least one of your party to show up as early as possible to get your name put on the waiting list; and
- go somewhere else for a pre-dinner drink and await your phone call.
There are plenty of great places to drink nearby in Fitzroy while you wait (eg Gertrude Street Enoteca, Caz Reitop's Dirty Secrets). Birdie and I went across the road to enjoy a mocktail and an umeshu, respectively, in the spic 'n span Cocoro Japanese Pottery Cafe. I must return to Cocoro soon to buy one of the cute little ceramic spoons and to try the gobo salad that the latest Cheap Eats guide raves about.
We were called back to Gigibaba and were seated at one of the few tables at the front. From our vantage point, we had a great view of the sumptuously-patterned bar, twinkling under a loose canopy of threaded, oversized, low-wattage, bare light bulbs. Drool.
It's billed as a "Turkish tapas" restaurant. Although the dishes are inexpensive, bear in mind that they are very small serves - and five or six dishes adds up quickly! The food is, however, delicious.
When I'd told her where I'd be going to dinner, one of my Melbourne Gastronome readers had insisted I try the pickled octopus salad ($8). She was right to recommend it - the octopus was tender and oh so nicely piquant, very similar to the way my nonna makes it. Thanks, B! :)
The skinny little vineleaf sarma rolls were filled with lamb and served with a dill yoghurt ($9). I also loved the baharat spiced BBQ mushrooms topped with a parsley and feta crust ($9). Birdie normally hates feta but even she was won over by the stuffed mushies.
Bizarrely enough, the highlight of the meal for me was the $8 cauliflower. Yeah, I know. Cauliflower! The world's most boring vegetable! And yet... spiced with zatar... it was heavenly.
We finished off the savoury dishes with lovely fresh eggplant-wrapped BBQ prawns ($12) and (an admittedly slightly unexciting) braised rabbit with sucuk ($18). I'm not normally much of a bread eater, but the restaurant-made bread brought out to mop up the rabbit sauce was just beautiful.
I loved how all of the surplus chairs were hooked up on the wall facing the bar, serving a Brother Baba Budan-like decorative function as well as a utilitarian one. :)
Bird and I then shared the dessert platter (I think it was $12 or $15). The desserts offered in the platter change daily. We were served two little diamonds of dense, moist orange and almond cake (again, very similar to how nonna makes it!), two little ladyfinger pastries that just dissolved deliciously in the mouth, and a gorgeous pot of crème brûlée containing both ginger and one of my very favourite liqueurs, Poire Williams. Best crème brûlée I've had in ages.
As was mentioned in the Epicure, Gigibaba is a little TOO popular for its own good, and - for the sake of the sanity of its small family of staff - has cut back on its opening hours (no more weekend brunches or Sunday dinners). It's still open for dinner Tuesdays to Sundays, but be prepared for a bit of a wait. It's worth it!