Azarphesha
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A Delicious Ode to Georgian Culture
This wine-centric restaurant, located near Freedom Square, is owned by local collector, folklorist, and cultural preservationist Luarsab Togonidze, who also runs a fashion brand that revives traditional Georgian clothing. The modern Eastern-Mediterranean menu is inspired by food cultures Georgian traditionally traded or had relationships with, from Persia to Byzantine-Greece. On the plates are heady permutations of garlic, eggplant, tahini, and local herbs, such as cilantro, purple basil, and tarragon. Ingredients are strictly local and seasonal: In the spring, a nettle pilaf or meatballs in sorrel sauce; fall might bring baked polenta with wild local mushrooms. Tiramisu is reinterpreted with homemade ladyfingers soaked in local Rkatsateli white wine. The owner often greets guests dressed in the chokha, Georgian national costume, which is a calf-length wool coat with a tapered waist. His advisor on food and wine is John Wurdeman, the American co-owner of Pheasants Tears winery. Decor features ethnographic wine artifacts—ceramic drinking vessels, decanters, and traditional drinking horns displayed on glass shelves—which sets the wine theme. The name of the restaurant comes from a silver ladle used by nobles for scooping and drinking wine. Chances are you’re going to hear Georgian polyphonic singing at one of the tables; guests often break into spontaneous song.
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