Georgia is one of the most exciting and surprising food destinations around, thanks to its extraordinary tapestry of dishes, ably supported by the world’s oldest tradition of winemaking
Dips are everywhere—some are smooth like a creamy pâté, while others are coarser, like the sensational fkhali made from beetroot, walnuts, spices and yoghurt. Unfamiliar but delicious cheeses also abound such as sulguni, a brined cow’s milk cheese similar to mozzarella that has to be served on the day it’s made, and
imeruli, a white curd cheese.
Of course, all these mezze need a platform and few countries anywhere make better bread than Georgia. Indeed, the country’s national dish is khachapuri, a ridiculously tasty and sinful number that is essentially cheese pizza. Hot, stringy cheeses—always more than one type—are melted into the soft bread that is baked to a perfect golden brown and served as a side dish.
We haven’t even reached the main courses or desserts in our epic dinner at Tsiskvili, but there are countless other restaurants to tempt visitors. One of the capital’s most well-known is Funicular, sitting on the Mtatsminda mountain that overlooks the golden domes, ancient roofs and minarets of the city below. No prizes for guessing that the most popular way to get there is via a funicular tramway.
A supra feast is incomplete without the main event, usually of chicken, pork, veal and other meats charcoal-grilled to perfection and served shashlik-style on skewers. They’re frequently accompanied by tkemali,a universally popular sharp sauce made from plum, dill and garlic—so ubiquitous that it’s known by some as Georgian ketchup.
Funicular also serves a brilliant version of
chakapuli, a veal stew again livened by plums, but this time with mounds of tarragon. It’s a sensational combination—sweet, sharp and sour all at once. Other options include ground lamb served like a kofte and dusted in the citrus lift of sumac.
A special mention must also go to Barbarestan, a restaurant whose entire menu is based on a cookbook written in
1914 by a duchess, Barbar Jordadze. Brilliant dishes demonstrate how Georgian cooking has stood the test of time without the need for forced innovation or reinvention. Most notably, its menu features a sensational aubergine, garlic and fresh parsley dip and a sour mushroom soup that could rival pho for its life-enhancing goodness.
The truth is that pretty much wherever you choose to eat, you can’t go wrong. Genuine hospitality runs in the blood of Georgians like few other destinations.