Bar Idda

June 11, 2012

132 Lygon Street, East Brunswick

Bar Idda is a gorgeous little Sicilian restaurant on Lygon Street in Brunswick East, in the corner building that originally housed Rumi. I was there for dinner with my parents one swelteringly hot Saturday evening, and walking in, wearing clothes I normally save for hot European summer holidays and with a slight sweat on my brow, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in Sicily.

Outside, colourful table-clothes beckon punters, and the large windows bring plenty of natural light into the dining area. Inside, the place is uncluttered and homely, and we instantly felt at ease.

One side of the menu proudly displays a map of Sicily; the other side a small but well thought out menu of traditional Sicilian dishes, simple and seasonal.

My beer, which looked and tasted remarkably like Peroni.

You could order your own dishes, but I really like the idea of ordering lots of things and sharing – the dishes are very simple and it feels more like home if everything is put together in the middle of the tab and arms cross as people grab for their desired piece of meat or fish. That was certainly how our meal started out, with forks colliding over the last succulent piece of octopus, eventually skewered by yours truly along with a golden wheel of potato. A celery leaf and wild fennel salad added a brilliant freshness.

The spiced sardine cakes were something of a disappointment, only because I though there wasn’t enough of a sardine flavour to them. But I did enjoy the fresh tomato and green bean salad.

Our final entree of zeppole was a hit; savory doughnuts of anchovy, potato and parsley with a lemon and yoghurt mayo. Similar to a croquette, I thought, and deceptively light and fluffy. The outside was crispy without being oily, and yielded to a pillowy soft interior. Awesome. Two children at the table next to us devoured a couple of bowls of these.

From the selection of larger dishes we ordered two beautiful BBQ’d fillets of whiting with a salmoriglio sauce, capers and parsley. There is, in my opinion, few things better in this world than fresh fish, grilled simply and served with a lemony kick.

This was accompanied by a nzalata di casa (house salad) of chicory, celery and sultanas. The chicory was very bitter, much more than my taste-buds are used to (so perhaps if you’re not up for a shock pick another salad), but accompanied with the sweet sultanas, it was a good companion for the fish.

The only other disappointment from the evening were the meatballs. While I enjoyed the kick of cinnamon in the tomato sugo, I found the beef meatballs had too much bread in them and it left them with a slightly floury texture.

However, the eggplant capunata more than made up for it. Quite possibly my favourite dish from the night, the eggplant had been stewed with tomato, capers, green olives, cinnamon and pine nuts, and was served cold. Simultaneously piquant and sweet, it had a slightly North African taste to it, and was completely gobbled up in about three minutes.

Finally, out came the laddina alla fucularo, BBQ’d spatchcock with cinnamon salt. People around town are raging about green tea salt – cinnamon salt is Italy’s answer to Japan, and gives the neon green dust a run for its money! The chicken was perfectly cooked, my dad raved about it for days afterwards; sweet and succulent and juicy, we finished these babies with our fingers, chewing off every last piece of meat.

Dessert at Idda is a traditional affair, with a number of tempting offers. Mum chose wisely and had the mint granita, which was perfect on such a hot day. Dad had the cassata, which he enjoyed, but I’m not a fan of marzipan so it didn’t appeal to me.

Instead, I ordered a Budino; summer fruits, chocolate biscotto, Italian meringue. Cue manic laughter. This made me feel like a kid again. When it came out I was wearing an enormous grin, and I eagerly dipped the spoon to the bottom of the glass, drawing out sweet stewed fruits, a hilariously salty chocolate crumb and some creamy-soft meringue to bind them all together. Honestly it was the most fun I’d had eating a dessert in a long time.

Bar Idda has a wonderful vibe, from the colourful tables outside to the simple interior that fooled us into thinking we were at someone’s house in Sicily. The beer runs cold, the food arrives quickly and the waitresses are even quicker with their smiles. As I sat there, somewhere between main and dessert, beer in one hand and wearing as little as was socially appropriate (as I said, it was about 40 degrees that day), I grinned stupidly and thought ‘this is what summer is about’. Bar Idda is a real gem and, frankly, my kind of food – simple, unpretentious and wholesome. I had a brilliant, relaxed evening there, and I think you would too.

Bar Idda on Urbanspoon

Filed under: Brunswick East, Italian