Smith Street is flush with kebab shops – the end near Gertrude Street particularly so. But Shane Delia wants you to know his is different to the other “meat-on-a-spinning-stick” joints.
The chef, who also owns Maha in the city, buys lamb shoulder whole, marinates it for two days, then slow-cooks it for 12 hours in an oven. Ditto for pork, which is later maple-glazed on a grill. As Jimmy Grants brought a new level of refinement to the quick ‘n’ dirty gyros, Biggie Smalls revises the typical greasy kebab.
“It’s not going to be everything to everyone,” Delia says, acknowledging the smaller size of the kebabs, which come in seven varieties priced from $9.50 to $13.
What Biggie lacks in size, it makes up for in creative combinations, such as the Dirty South (fried chicken, pumpkin-pie hummus, pickles) or the West Coast (fried shrimp, harissa, almond mayo).
The only one that doesn’t quite fit the theme is the C. Wallace (flaxseed falafel, smoked hummus, pickles). “There’s no way he ever would have eaten anything vegetarian,” Delia says, laughing.
The chips are outstanding, coated in butter, preserved lemon and thyme. Soft, salted pretzels ooze peanut-butter caramel; and beers come in tinnies.
In homage to Delia’s own travels to New York, the small space walks the line between polished American diner and subway car, replete with luggage racks suspended over the back booths. Framed portraits of the man himself, The Notorious B.I.G., look back at you.
Fun fact: Delia’s first Biggie Smalls concept wasn’t Middle Eastern at all – it was going to be an all-American restaurant with crayfish mac’n’cheese, sliders and gumbo instead of kebabs. “I had that idea couple of years ago, but then everyone was doing US food,” Delia says. “I thought, ‘Nah, everyone’s trying to do US food, and I probably can’t do any better than what they’re trying to do.”
Untraditional Middle Eastern, though? That’s a different story.
86 Smith Street, Collingwood
(03) 9417 3531
Sun to Wed 12pm‒10pm
Thu to Sat 12pm‒late
Words by Nick Connellan
Originally posted on Broadsheet 11 December, 2015