President of the Gastronomic Association of Georgia, Professor at the GIPA Business School and the Tourism Research Center of the Tbilisi State University, with years-long experience in gastronomic culture and culinary tourism
What should one taste and see to bypass cliché tourist routes and embrace the heart and soul of this country?
What first-time visitors must savor in Georgia is, above all else, the capital’s gastronomy. I recommend quintessential Tbilisi-style cafes and restaurants serving peculiar and exciting variations on Georgian dishes. For example, Café Leila, Anchiskhati area, serves a khachapurito, a mix of Sulguni and Edam cheeses wrapped in a thin crust. Copy-pasting is alien to Tbilisi, which is why the capital’s signature interpretations of the national cuisine are so thrilling.
Rookie visitors eager to embrace Georgian culture must drop by Shavi Lomi (Black Lion) Restaurant, where they can see what old Tbilisi restaurants or taverns once looked like. Shavi Lomi is an old Tbilisi-style eatery that serves, among other things, assorted pickled vegetables, both fasting and non-fasting dishes, in gobi, that is, large wooden bowls.
in large bowls that everyone at the table shares. As an illustration, we can refer to kelekhi post-funeral receptions invariably grounded in sharing and communion.
Those into Georgian fusion – that is, tracing the way authentic Georgian flavors have developed, and how old recipes are interpreted from the modern point of view – are advised to visit the restaurants Litera and Meama. If you prefer retro variations surviving from the time of Soviet Georgia, I recommend Baia Salobie (Baia’s Beanery).
Within this small geographic area, every region is represented with its hallmark gastronomy. To take in each of them, we must visit given regions individually and savor the local cuisine. Georgia’s key culinary characteristics include stuffed pies, diverse mkhali seasoned vegetable mixes, and every region boasts its unique varieties of cheese and wine.
In Samegrelo, you should try the local kharcho soup and khachapuri cheese bread to feel the impulsiveness of this region. The reserved and stately character of Kakheti is discerned through khashlama boiled chunks of beef and chakapuli, a whole stew-symphony featuring lamb or veal with tarragon and wild plums. To fathom Abkhazian culture, you must try adjika hot paste, with its authenticity defined by smoked pepper.
In the mountain areas, you can enjoy unique dambalkhacho moistened curd and khinkali dumplings. To become friends with Racha, I recommend trying four-cheese khachapuri cheese bread with the kvakveli cheese variety from the village of Ghebi, also tabla rolls, and lobiani bread stuffed with beans and lori ham cooked in ketsi clay pans. Meskheti can be taken in by attending the ritual of making tenili string cheese or local khachapuri – a truly rewarding, magical experience.
Skipping the part of well-known dishes, the region of Adjara offers iakhni stew, chirbuli fried eggs with all kinds of vegetables, kapshoni and chkidi cornbread varieties, while Svaneti promises the kubdari double-crust pie with brook trout, and ziskhora blood sausages. Also, Kartli is your destination to enjoy a whole array of shechamandi soups, and so on and so forth. Just follow this route and all of Georgia will transform into an open book.