ROUBRIC | food and drinks

Ovsyanka Bar

BOX  23 Tamar Chovelidze St /

Call: 599 85 00 65 /

Open: from 10am till 10pm on Workdays; till 12 am on Weekends /

Brunch Restaurant; Place for Friday night cocktails /

Good for a coffee stop and working on your laptop /

Nice hangover spot 

Chovelidze Street started its transformation from the very bottom several years ago and the process has already hit the middle of this long and steep street going all the way up to the foot of Mtatsminda.

It starts with a super-modern European mood with Stamba Hotel on one side and Keti’s Bistro with its French accent on the other. But before you hit the first crossroad of Chovelidze-Zandukeli streets, pay attention to the wooden green door, or to the old and steep balcony that reveals Ovsyanka Bar – a brunch, hangover and cocktails place all in one, located on the second floor of a crumbling Soviet building that once housed a privately-owned kindergarten in the early 2000s.

Ovsyanka Bar claims it is a breakfast place, it is for those new working class people who would like to have  breakfast (a healthy one) while holding first meeting of the day, or answering mail.

 

Ovsyanka offers 4 sets of breakfast and the breakfast #4 (fried potatoes with an egg, sausages, a salad mix, cherry tomatoes, and toasted bread) is especially heavy – specially designed for hangovers. That’s another accent of Ovsyanka: it is a perfect place if you are suffering from a hangover. Fresh juices, a great selection of soups (including a Norwegian salmon soup), all the trendy ingredients, like quinoa and avocado, granola with yogurt and oatmeal porridge (even with coconut milk) that will assure you that you are healing yourself with healthy stuff after an alcohol attack.

One of the walls is a work of contemporary art – the bare cement wall is covered with a metal net from floor to ceiling that is lit up with neon lights during the evenings and warmed up with plants – the classic theme of industrial poetry.

SHOUT: Special recommendations: Try their homemade ice cream with Russian bread ‒ a true delicacy.

The owners of the place are Russian expats – four friends who’ve concluded that the general temperament they share with Georgians and the local state of mind suits them well. The interior and the menu they’ve created indirectly proves that these people are far beyond the general taste that Russians have often acquired towards the Georgian cuisine. To be more precise, Ovsyanka is far beyond “kindza”, “shashliki”, or “khinkali” – the terms Russian tourists often use to describe their knowledge and affection towards Georgian food.

Ovsyanka radiates more of a cosmopolitan, post-industrial vibe, with certain aesthetics that transcend nationalities and moreover, Russian expansionary politics, the recent war and its aftermath. It’s a place where “nationality” is a new device that connects people of all political and cultural backgrounds.

Even some Georgians have started visiting the place. European visitors often stop by too, but mostly it’s a place of Vera locals and Russian-speaking expats – for them spending a Friday evening here with in-house cocktails and music is a must.

Important to note: Sunday is a brunch day at Ovsyanka, guided with a special menu, accompanied by sparkling wine as a gift with each ordered dish. The menu includes homemade zucchini quiche, a Slavic speciality – syrniki with caramel, Georgian inspiration – pancakes with nadugi (type of Georgian cottage cheese) and with poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

Facebook: @ovsyanka.tbilisi  Insta: @ovsyanka_bar

 

Umami Tbilisi

Asian Fusion Restaurant

BOX Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, 1 Rose Revolution Square /

Call: +995 322 402 200

 

Usually when a restaurant is incorporated into a hotel, guests just can’t wait to get outside and explore the new city. However, what happens in Umami, one such restaurant owned by the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, is exactly the opposite: people from all around flock here and can’t wait to get in.

As you can see for yourself on the establishment’s Facebook feedback section, it’s the best Asian fusion restaurant in Tbilisi: “Never expected to find the best Wagyu steak here!” and “I never leave here without ordering shrimp tempura,” or “You get value for your money, expensive but absolutely worth it.” In a nutshell, when it comes to culinary reviews in Tbilisi, Umami is always topping the list. This restaurant, which never goes out of fashion, used to be TripAdvisor’s number one choice, but now holds 6th place, because rules are rules: to encourage startups, according to the web portal’s policy, veterans must voluntarily take a back seat to rookies. To double-check the cited comments, we visited this best-loved restaurant a few days ago.

The interior is very unpretentious, dark wooden frames and furniture, wide windows, lots of space with an open kitchen enabling you to watch the cooks work on your dish.

Service is polite and fast. Uniformed personnel address you quietly, in a low voice, to explain everything you need to know. Many Tbilisi residents have come here absolutely clueless about Asian fusion, but, thanks to the establishment’s chefs and servers, have soon grown truly knowledgeable and even enamored with Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean cuisine.

The regularly updated Umami menu is user-friendly. The dishes are categorized by country, so you can make your quick order and easily guess which particular flavors or ingredients to anticipate, depending on the country.

Our dinner is a combo plate, as it were, something we planned in advance to sample dishes from every country. Sure enough, the shrimp tempura is balanced to perfection, with a fresh taste and seasoning right on-target.

Sizzling scallops and eel teppanyaki with wasabi sauce and sesame seed paste: this dish boasts ideally balanced tastes and fresh fish flavors, simple and yet intense enough to leave a pleasant, lasting aftertaste.

Classic rolls here are complemented with an innovative approach. For example, salmon rolls are more popular here than California rolls, and I recommend the former, too.

Roasted duck meat with vegetables and hoisin sauce – I simply can’t recall the last time I tried such perfectly roasted duck meat.

The abundance of dishes does not necessarily mean overstuffing. By the end of our meal, we still feel quite light, ready for good coffee and yummy desserts, puff mango and cocoa pastries.

Umami is a frequent destination of special weekend afternoon outings, because Tbilisi’s residents know well that the joint offers the perfect remedy for a hangover: soups!

Many are religious about going to Umami on Thursdays when the chefs work their magic in a teppanyaki show to the amusement of their guests.

Last but not least, being a fine Asian fusion establishment in Tbilisi is not as easy as it used to be just a year ago, for instance, because Asian fusion restaurants have mushroomed in town over the course of the last 12 months. And this is why we offer you a shortcut of sorts to the best Asian fusion establishment of the apparently many found in Tbilisi. The restaurant boasts panoramic views of Tbilisi and has pioneered many things in town, sparing no effort to keep up the good innovative work and continue its convincing progress. And one more thing: the rice chips served as appetizers, like all the other items on the menu, are just as perfect here as on the opening day.

Web page: umamirestaurant.ge

 

g. Vino

The Uznadze Street branch

BOX 82 Uznadze St., Tbilisi /

Call: 577 22 29 09 /

Open: 6 pm - 12 am /

Walk-Ins Welcome

Everybody in Tbilisi knows about the wine bar g. Vino, which has a very diverse and nice selection of Georgian wines made using the traditional qvevri method as well as those done in the European style.

SHOUT “I wouldn’t call it a fusion. It’s more like a synergy of different cultures, or flavors working in harmony, that comprise our cuisine.”

g.Vino has opened another space recently. The Uznadze Street branch houses a lifestyle hotel with limited rooms and an interesting concept with a restaurant connected to it. The restaurant has a signature menu by the local young chef Tamta Kikaleishvili, who has a casual style of cooking, with a focus on artisanal wines and natural, healthy meals aiming to fit ingredients that are staples to the Georgian taste and that also represent impressions from international dishes and cooking techniques. You can decide for yourself: the menu features tenderloin with wine and salvia butter, beef carpaccio with green adjika, catfish with tkemali (sour plum) and tarragon sauce, pork belly confit with Rachan ham bread (ham from Racha is famous in Georgia and if any restaurant or your host says that there is a chance to taste ham from Racha, don’t even hesitate). The chef of the restaurant says that her main aim was...

Little hint: The restaurant is situated on the left bank of the Mtkvari River. It is a wonderful chance to stroll through the old and beautiful or renovated and still beautiful 19th century residential houses. Then have your dinner late at this interesting, new place with artisanal wine and signature dishes that might give you an idea of how Georgian cuisine can be interpreted and explored with cooking techniques and ingredients that are more familiar to the taste and attitude of the modern gourmand beyond nationalities and patriotic preferences.

 

Web page: gvinohotel.com / Facebook: gvinohotel

 

Rainers European Restaurant

BOX 32 Vasil Barnovi Str., Vera Area /

Call: 0322 98 54 39 /

Open: 12 pm - 11 pm /

Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks

There are not many businesses in Georgia, especially small businesses at that, which can claim that they’ve been around for 20 years. 20 years – that’s as old as independent Georgia itself. 20 years ago – that’s when the business sector started its biography in the post-Soviet country. And this restaurant, with a cozy, family-friendly-though-more-pub-like interior and the outdoor space that looked even weirder back then, 20 years ago, with tables and benches cramped right on the cement stair-case – managed to stay and to develop further.

Today Rainers European Restaurant is connected to the hotel next door, but it’s still popular for the tradition that yet endures. Rainers is the place for delicious pizza with dozens of interesting toppings, for German style shared food accompanied with quality beer. Vera area locals, especially expats, often go there during warm spring evenings for exceptionally tasty food be it German, Italian, French, Hungarian, or Georgian.

SHOUT: Rainer’s has a very interesting take on modernizing Georgian food classics.

Rainer’s has a very interesting take on modernizing Georgian food classics. The author of the recipes is the Restaurant owner himself, Rainer Kauffman, who can be regarded as a specialist in Georgian history and modern affairs. He changed the classic recipes and gave them an even more interesting touch. He also has a book available about Georgian cuisine, ask for it at the same place.

So, the Rainer’s section for Georgian cuisine is worth exploring. It has coriander cream-soup, sturgeon dumplings, a khachapuri burger, chicken breast a la chkmeruli, eggplant with walnut pesto, beef fillet with saperavi sauce, gorgonzola-mchadi, Adjarian khachapuri a la Kartli. And from the desserts: pancakes baked with endemic Georgian flour, tsiteli doli garnished with walnuts and honey, and also vanilla ice-cream with watermelon muraba (the Georgian version of sweet fruit preserves), or fig salad with churchkhela, ginger and cream... – these are truly very brave experiments on Georgian classics – worth to try.

Check the international section too – you will find some rare examples of traditional cuisines from various countries, like roasted pork legs, Maultaschen (Ravioli Swabian style), beef rolls german style - stuff that are not from the usual pop and worn-out repertoire.

Visit Rainers if you want to find a restaurant that has a huge diversity on its menu, nice outdoor seating space, dubbed to be the pivotal meeting point of the expat scene in Tbilisi, and if you also want to feel all the charm that the Vera area radiates.

Web page: hotel-kartli.com  Facebook: rainerspizzeria

 

Ghumeli Restaurant: In-and-Out at Once

Text by Tamar Kvinikadze

ROUND BOX 10 Lermontov St, Tbilisi /

Call: 032 2 40 30 70

It is common scientific knowledge that everything we experience on a daily basis, such as eating or enjoying landscapes, boosts pleasant experiences tenfold. To relive this ancient wisdom, you must visit Ghumeli (Oven), a restaurant on the top floor of Iota Hotel Tbilisi on the corner of Lermontov and Tabidze Streets. Inside, the restaurant consists of a wide and long hall with windows lined up on either side to offer views of Mtatsminda and Tbilisi and to take in the sunlight, ever-changing depending on the time of day.

The star accessory here is an enormous stone oven separating the open kitchen from the dining section of the hall, with the chef and the confectioner taking care of business on the other side of the oven. One cooking up Georgian and European dishes and the other tending to exquisite European desserts.

 

Other, equally exciting accessories of the restaurant include the said views. Just snuggle down by one of the windows, try the establishment’s signature dishes with a glass of wine, and contemplate Tbilisi from afar. Trust me, seen from a distance, Tbilisi is stripped of all its artiness and chaos, leaving only its modern charm and cryptic historical context.

To bring out the best in Tbilisi’s quintessence, we order a Georgian meal and conclude that the leek, beet, and spinach pkhali dishes here are seasoned to a T, classic in both form and flavor. This implacable harmony of flavors is amazing, indeed. The restaurant’s pkhali dishes inspire us Georgians to exclaim, “That’s what I’m talking about!” while helping foreign visitors discover the true colors of pkhali.

The mchadi cornbread at Ghumeli is what we call homemade; it is thicker and baked on a layer of nesho husks and leaves, something you will not find anywhere else in town. Just glancing at it, you can rest assured that it is made from premium quality flour. We the Georgians, as picky as we are, pay special attention to this aspect, so you can take our word to the bank!

The boneless hen tsatsivi dish with walnut paste is excellent in that it, firstly, enables you to enjoy the best part of both the paste and the meat, and secondly, no flavor sticks out to dwarf the others, neither cinnamon, cilantro, nor garlic – everything is balanced to perfection, homemade-style.

The khinkali dumpling soup is the chef’s calling card. The smaller khinkali dumplings are swimming in their own juice in a bowl. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone – as you may have heard from Georgians, the juice is the beauty of khinkali dumplings.

Similarly, the chef offers his own versions of kubdari double-crust meat-filled pies and khachapuri cheese-bread: baked until crisp in the shape of long sticks. Thus, if you are looking for the conventional variations of these baked goods, you should try someplace else. Here, however, you are sure to be treated with modern interpretations.

Most importantly, put your trust in the Ghumeli chef, in his finesse and in his talent for finding harmony in eclecticism. He is equally good when it comes to European dishes too, be it pasta or his own version of goulash a la Paul Bocuse. Thus, you can visit Ghumeli any time you are fatigued by Georgian cuisine and feel like trying other, more acceptable flavors. After a nice meal at Ghumeli, you are welcome to enjoy good coffee with yummy pastries. We now go for some red silky cake and crème brûlée – kudos to the confectioner for both!

As it gets warmer, this place becomes doubly pleasant. The restaurant’s corrugated roof is removed to make you feel closer to Mtatsminda and the houses dotting its slope on one side and Tbilisi’s rooftops on the other, with some of them still boasting the antique charm of red tiles or the radiance of silver copper coming back to life.

Web page: iotahotels.com  Facebook: ghumeli