Gigi opened in Midtown last Friday and Short Order finally made its way there to give it a try. Described as serving "cutting-edge, high-performance, communal comfort food," we weren't sure what to expect, but we enjoyed every bit of our visit.
Gigi is the work of Amir Ben-Zion, co-creator of Townhouse Hotel, Bond Street, Bardot, Buck15, Sra. Martinez, and Miss Yip. Heading the kitchen is Chef Jeff McInnis, who left his gig at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach to take the post at Gigi, and brought a lot of talent from the Ritz's kitchen along with him.
The space has an industrial, urban feel with metal stools and chairs, light wood tables and counters, and writing on the walls. The kitchen is entirely open, so grabbing a seat at the counter gives anyone who sits there a look at everything going on behind the line.
The menu, simply broken down into basics, raw, grill, noodle bowl and rice bowl, is small but covers a lot of ground with a good variety of small plates and main courses. It also offers a small selection of red and white wines, beer (from PBR to Singha) and a handful of sakes. The service was attentive and our server was knowledgeable and visibly enthusiastic about the food.
We sat at the counter and ordered quite a few dishes from the menu. Of course we had to try the buns ($7). Yes, Gigi also serves buns, two to an order, with roasted pork, pulled chicken or shiitake mushrooms. We chose the pork and were wowed by the light, pillowy bun cradling our pork. The BLT ($9), a slab of tender and slightly sweet pork belly in between two pieces of charred dough, was quite good and large enough to make a good small meal. It is served with a small jar of pickled onions, cauliflower and cucumbers.
From the raw section, we tasted a refreshing snack of compressed melons dressed with lime and chilies ($3) and the Homestead avocado and tomato salad ($9). There's not much not to like about a fresh avocado and tomato salad and this one was made better with hearts of palm, oranges and - the best part - thin pieces of a crunchy rice.
The local sweet summer corn ($3) was a nicely presented side of grilled corn brushed with a tofu and ginger schmear and topped with scallions and dried cornbread crumbs. A bowl of shitake mushrooms ($4) marinated with a "sticky soy" sauce had an acidic, citrusy flavor; possibly, we were told, from the togarashi in the sauce. Our last dish was a bed of creamy coconut risotto topped with a slow braised curry duck leg ($12). The light coconut flavor of the risotto, a nice, cooling contrast to the heat of the curry.
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Desserts are probably not the focus, but on our visit included homemade blueberry and chocolate-sesame soft serve, Rice Krispy treats and chocolate chip cookies.
While some people have been calling Gigi a noodle bar, it's a lot more than that. And for only having a little less than a week under its belt, it's running smoothly and putting out some pretty good food at good prices and late into the night. Give it a try.
Gigi is open Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. Lunch service is coming later this fall.
3470 N Miami Avenue, Miami