GRAZING GENIALLY GEORGIAN AT 'GENATSVALE' IN MOSCOW
Recently, WFEDders were teased with this 'trailer' message:
A Georgian chicken dish was mentioned on a 'Lazing' travel review, that may have been chicken "tabaka" served with a pungent sourish plum sauce -"satsivi" :
The astonishing similarity between Georgian and Shanghainese meat dumplings set me on a quest to discover the links between those two countries. Georgia lies on the ancient trade routes between China and the Mediterranean. The source of its wealth in fiscal and cultural terms was by having one foot in the East of the Silk Road and the other in the West of the busy shipping lanes of the Black Sea. I could not visit Georgia but as the next best thing, I am happy to share a most congenial 'Grazing' experience at a Georgian culinary experience in Moscow - 'Genatsvale'.
Said to be Catherine Deneuve's favorite Georgian restaurant. There are two sister-restaurants side by side, with Genatsvale VIP being more expensive. The term 'VIP' really means exactly that in Russia and VIP signs abound at casinos and nightclubs. Hollywood star, Will Smith was spotted here and so was Colin Powell.
Famous clients' photos line the entrance walls
They never took my photo!
Mineral water 'Borzhomi'
A most unique taste of iron, calcium and acid. Now, this was indubitably a 'mineral water'. See the Georgian entwining alphabet on the lower part of the label? It is said that Georgian writing resembles the entwining grapevines as befits the cradle of viniculture.
Saperavi 2001, Tamada range (Georgian Wine & Spirits Co.)
This semi-dry red is not the "Export" variety and tends towards the tobacco or spice style and was well-balanced; very gluggable indeed!
Grape: Saperavi 100%
Region: Kakheti, East Georgia
Colour: Deep purple when young and probably would develop a burgundy tone after 5 years.
Nose: Blackberry and blackcurrant with a hint of tobacco and oak.
Palate: Ripe berry flavours with soft tannins. The fruit flavours give the impression of sweetness although it is a dry wine.
I could not recognise any spoken Georgian except 'ghvino' (wine), whose pronunciation was spread to the rest of the known world by the Greeks, I guess.
Vegetable dish "pkhali" made of finely chopped beet leaves or spinach mixed with walnut paste, pomegranate grains and various spices. "Lobio" (kidney bean sauce) has as many recipes as there are grandmothers. Pickled aubergines and green tomatoes which are filled with the walnut paste seasoned with vinegar, pomegranate grains and aromatic herbs.
Bread, dips and sauces.
Georgian cuisine uses familiar products but also more of their heritage obligatory ingredients such as walnut, aromatic herbs, garlic, vinegar, red pepper, pomegranate grains, and barberries to produce a special taste and aroma.
The lady is a customer caught up in the fun.
Georgians are famous for their musical traditions. Folk-secular music, with polyphonic music developed side-by-side with Church music. It is traditional for Georgian songs to be sung in three-part harmony (in some regions a 4th voice may be added). There are songs linked with celebration, work songs, traveling songs, lullabies, wedding songs, dance songs, and table songs. Georgian dance embodies aristocratic restraint and steadiness. The man is a knight and the lady is as delicate and gracious as a fairy.
Stuffed mushrooms and a cheesy-omelette-pizza affair roasted in butter, which I think is called "sulguni".
Or was it a "khachapuri", which is a golden-brown thin pie filled with mildly salted cheese.
Khinkali: a sort of strongly peppered mutton dumpling, is a favourite dish with the mountain dwellers of Georgia.
Apparently this percussionist and accordionist are very famous in Russia / Georgia.
Painting on stone wall evokes a window looking out on the Caucasus mountains.
"Mcvadi" (shashlik kebab) is very popular in Georgia. Depending on a season, it is made of pork or mutton or aubergines stuffed with tail-fat and tomatoes. We had both mutton and pork varieties that evening.
We never got to try "chizhi-pizhi" (liver and spleen roasted in butter and whipped eggs) or "khashi" - a broth of beef entrails (legs, stomach, udder, pieces of head and bones) seasoned with garlic. Somehow, I was a little glad for that......
Roasted small sausages "kupati" stuffed with finely chopped pork, beef and mutton mixed with red pepper and barberries, sounds a little more appetising.
My Japanese colleague could not get enough of this, so our host made sure we had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Our dessert came in with a musical light show.
Dessert: Filo pastry, cream and fruit affair; creamy 'strudel' is the best I can describe it.
Georgian brandy rounds off the meal but I have yet to tell of the lengthy 'toasts' !
The Georgian table is conducted in a wise manner, in accordance with ancient ritual. The head of the table "tamada" is elected by the host. The tamada must be a man of humour and able to improvise and philosophise. I suddenly realised why the Georgian Wine & Spirits Co named one of their ranges of wiines after the "Tamada".
If there are many guests, the tamada can appoint assistants called "tolumbashis". The tamada's toasts follow one another in a strict order that the guest is obliged to listen and appreciate without interruption. One admires the beauty, style and all-encompassing purport of ideas. The tamada's assistants and guests may only add something to the toast or develop primary threads, with the tamada's permission. This ritual maintains discipline at the table. The feast proceeds accompanied by jokes, dance competitions, table songs, music, quotations and aphorisms from the works of poets and writers.
Remember I said "toasts"? Well, that multiplicity really leads to NOT remembering much of the dinner the next day!
I would say that this well established dining-musical experience is a must-do in Moscow if one cannot get to Tsblisi, Georgia: A WFEDders' 2-thumbs up!
Photos & Text Copyright Melvyn Teillol-Foo, 2005