Taking over an old kebab shop, this Carlton North restaurant serving up top-notch, modern Turkish fare is sure to delight
BABAJAN: REVIEWED BY DAN STOCK
IT’S almost hard to imagine given it’s one of our hottest dining destinations, but not that long ago, Collingwood’s Smith St really was the badlands – culinary and otherwise – where kebabs were the highest order of the day (and night).
Smith St’s gastro-evolution began when a chef called Ismail Tosun opened Gigibaba, and his modern Turkish fare put Collingwood on the map.
Gigibaba is no more, but Tosun is cooking again, teaming up with Kirsty Chiaplias (ex-worker’s Food Room). Having taken over an old kebab shop in Carlton North and given it a brushed concrete, white-walled makeover, the duo are serving up mod-turkish dishes that are worth crossing town for. Again.
The food is at once approachable and clever. It is also affordable, impressive at every turn and outrageously delicious.
The simit, dense and slightly sweet sesame-topped bread, is perfect to swipe through smoky baba ghanoush and nutty hummus, while the saganaki with spiced pears is everything that’s good about pan-fried cheese.
The octopus is simple perfection. A mound of soft discs the palest of pinks sits upon a creamy cloud of lemony aioli, with sharp vinegar pickle giving bite.
In the open kitchen you’ll see Tosun on the grill, from which three hefty nuggets of deftly spiced lamb kofte might come, or char-marked sujuk sausage, while the cinnamon and star anise-rubbed beef is tender as a lullaby.
The graze-sized plates make for an easy meze meal, though you could double down with pide and lahmacun (Turkish pizza) hot from the oven. The minced lamb topped with parsley, pine nuts, tomato and onion, though, is almost too good to share.
A few wines and Efes beer slake lunchtime thirsts, while equally accomplished breakfast is also served.
Babajan has put this pocket of Carlton on the map. Set the GPS.