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Those of you who’ve read René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s Asterix comics will be familiar with the name Gallia – and, chances are, you’ll feel a sense of attachment to the coastal Gallic village from which the characters hail. How could you not? After all, we’re talking about a village that managed to defy the glorious Roman Empire (let’s not forget the magic potion factor). Now, there’s a young chef who has succeeded in transforming this part real, part fictional story into a dining locale in Nişantaşı. Gallia owner Fuat Halaç has a clear goal: to make Gallia better than all the other restaurants in the neighborhood that have already made a name for themselves. And he’s equipped with everything he needs to make it happen.
Halaç is a graduate of the acclaimed Johnson & Wales University, which counts Emeril Lagasse, Graham Elliot and our very own Mehmet Gürs among its alumni. With such credentials, it’s no surprise that he wants us to keep our expectations high. At Gallia, Halaç aims to offer fusion cuisine by putting unexpected combinations of cultures and flavors on a plate – without sacrificing on taste. To understand what we mean, all you have to do is take a look at the wonton with French onion soup in the starters section. Gallia took onion soup – a heavy hitter on its own – and found a way to improve on it by pureeing and injecting it into large wontons with a creamy cheese sauce. It’s the ideal choice for those who want to be surprised with each bite. Gallia’s porcini mushroom risotto balls are the perfect consistency, unlike other attempts at the dish we’ve tried to date. The seafood Benedict is a medley of calamari, octopus and shrimp topped with poached quail egg and served on sliced bread. The turkey liver pâté offers a chance to sample two different culinary cultures: try it with fig jam to get a taste of Southern France or with ginger-salsa for a Southeastern Anatolian flavor.
In addition to pasta, risotto, sandwiches and burgers, Gallia also serves a trio of pizzas and an extensive selection of main courses. We recommend making room for the kokoreç pizza – though if you’re not a huge fan of grilled sheep intestines, you might want to opt for the menemen pizza instead.
The star of the menu is the beef ribs, slow cooked over 14 hours with a homemade teriyaki sauce and served with polenta and sautéed baby spinach – a must-try for those who love tender meat. As for dessert, the cheesecake with pişmaniye (helva with a cotton candy-like texture) and the pumpkin crème brûlée deserve all the praise we can give them – so much so that we weren’t able to pick a favorite. As it stands now, Gallia looks poised to become a staple in Istanbul’s eating and drinking scene with its cleverly crafted dishes – which is all the more reason why you should be among the first to discover it.