Manhattanites who've never tasted Georgian cooking have run out of excuses. Once available only to those who ventured into deepest Brooklyn, the rich, cheesy breads and other specialties of the former Soviet republic landed last year in the East Village at Oda House. Now this hearty comfort food from the Caucasus has surfaced at Old Tbilisi Garden on Bleecker Street.
Opened a month ago by the former owners of Tbilisi Restaurant in Gravesend, Brooklyn, the new place offers kebabs, salads, stews, and more with distinctive herb- and nut-based sauces and seasonings. There's also a selection of Georgia's celebrated breads, including khachapuri in several regional variations. The Megruli style is a big doughy round reminiscent of pizza (pictured below), filled and topped with soft, white sulguni cheese—delicious, pravit reports, and easily enough for two.
Flavorful cheese distinguishes the Adjaruli khachapuri (top photo), which has a poached egg on top. Other early winners are tolma (grape leaves stuffed with well-seasoned meat and rice) and lobio (spicy stewed beans) with cornbread.
Chef and co-owner Pikria Basaria says Georgian cooking shouldn't frighten anyone off. "It’s similar to Turkish and Mediterranean food in concept,” she told DNAinfo, "but we season and cook it differently." That means, for example, bringing in spices like dzira—"very close to cumin," she says, "but a better version of cumin."
Now that the downtown Georgian scene has suddenly grown from zero restaurants to two, the question is which one rules. For DavyTheFatBoy, it's Old Tbilisi Garden over Oda House by a mile.
Old Tbilisi Garden [Greenwich Village]
174 Bleecker Street (between Sullivan and MacDougal streets), Manhattan
Photos from Old Tbilisi Garden / Facebook