Photo by Tec Petaja
Classic Georgian Dishes for a Modern Crowd
This place opened in May 2015 and is located inside a romantic garden. The garden belongs to the graceful Art Nouveau mansion built in 1905 by a notorious brandy magnate, then appropriated by the Soviet Georgian Union of Writers. Now, where nomenklatura scribes once devoured elite rations, chic young Tbilisians are sampling chef Tekuna Gachechiladze’s modern riffs on old flavors. Platinum blond and blue-eyed, stylish even in a chef’s jacket, Tekuna went to New York in the early days get a PhD in psychology, but somehow ended up at a cooking school. Back in 2006, she ran a chic brasserie in Tbilisi, then she opened Culinarium (her own cooking school with a built-in restaurant), followed by Littera. She is remixing classic Georgian flavors for the 21st century. Elarji, Georgia’s white grits and cheese, is reimagined as fried puffy croquettes, gooey with smoked suluguni cheese, and served with a smooth Baja sauce made with almonds instead of the usual walnuts. Tartare of buttery Georgian beef is highlighted with adjika, a fiery coriander-perfumed chili paste (made by her mother-in-law) and tangy djonjoli, pickled flowers of the bladderwort plant. Just as ethereally reconfigured are her wild Black Sea mussels in chakhapuli, a springtime sauce of tarragon and tart green plums that usually smothers meat. Dessert might be a panna cotta of buffalo yogurt with caramelized walnuts.
By Anya von Bremzen, AFAR Contributor