Pomegranate report (San Diego)
Reposted from another thread
I was with a large party, so I tried several items.
We started off with a sampler of cold salads. These were all good. Two are Russian, the remainder Georgian. The Russian ones were a potato salad with peas and a mayonnaise-based dressing, and a cabbage-based slaw. The Georgian salads were a sweet shredded carrot, shredded beet, and one with what seemed to be green beans.
One thing that really stood out was the abundant use of fresh herbs and garlic. The butter brought out with the bread was seasoned with garlic and tarragon, and all the dishes had a pronounced herbal component.
Along with the salads were two bowls of soup, borscht and another called "Peter the Great". These were both amazing. Apparently they slow smoke their meat here, and the Peter the Great soup was strongly flavored by it. Hard to tell what's in it, so many flavors. But the smokiness stands out.
Borscht I'd never had before, and it was something of a revelation. Calling it "beet soup" really doesn't do it justice. It's a beef broth, and yes there are beets too, but also lots of herbs and chunks of tender beef. Very good, and something I'd go back for again.
Some other highlights:
Evening special of stuffed red-bell pepper. A large roasted red bell, stuffed with a ground meat mixture and dressed with a creamy sauce. Very tasty.
Leg of lamb - had a bite from someone's plate, tender and flavorful.
Beverages are also a highlight here. Russian tea served from a samovar was excellent, a number of good Russian beers, Georgian wine, and very nice Turkish coffee for dessert.
Overall, I'd describe the food as intensely flavored and rather brash. The abundance of herbs and garlic make for very lively dishes. Definitely one of San Diego's hidden gems.
A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a description of Georgia on Lonely Planet's website: "Its culture is ancient and built around a vast variety of influences; its people are a mix of traditional and very modern; and the food is legendary." Obviously the last bit is what concerns us here. I found this very interesting because, other than the reviews of Pomegranate restaurant on Chowhound, I've never heard anyone even mention Georgian food. I suppose it's no coincidence that this has become my new favorite restaurant in San Diego.
Anyway, we went back last night and once again it was great. Here's what we had:
Sampler of cold salads (waitress called it the "appetizer combination") - as Josh mentioned above, the waitress instructs you to start with the mildest salad and work your way up to the most pungent. We both agreed that the shredded carrot with garlic (third most pungent) was the best. The last two were also really good. One had something that tasted like curry in it, the other had another spice I recognized from Indian food (I'm drawing a blank here...).
Khachapuri: Cheese pie. Very tasty. From what I gather this is a Georgian classic. My date liked this even more than I did.
Chakapuli: lamb, onions tarragon, wine, plum sauce. TO DIE FOR! The lamb was unbelievably tender and, as with many of the dishes at Pomegranate, herbs and spices were popping out all over the place. One of the things that impresses me so much about Pomegranate's food is the way the flavors stand out. I was convinced there was lemon or lime in this dish but the owner claims it was the Chardonnay. Either way, the tartness balances out the sweet flavor of the lamb really well.
Russian meatballs? - my date had all four wisdom teeth pulled last weekend and was looking for something that didn't require a lot of chewing. The waitress recommended this dish. I can't find it anywhere on the menu, but it's very tasty. Quite salty and, once again, lots of herbs and spices.
While the food is very reasonably priced (I actually think they should charge more), the wine is overpriced. We got a little out of hand and ordered two bottles of Georgian wine -- one dry white, one dry red -- without paying attention to the price ($30/bottle). I like both, but neither merits the price IMO (although the red got better and better as it opened up). I would suggest bringing your own wine. A bottle of Chianti, Cabernet, of another big, tannic red will go well with most of these dishes. I'll check on their corkage fee and get back to you guys...
Btw, their extremely odd menu can be viewed on their website:
I tried Pomegranate last night and it was fantastic. This is a perfect example of the type of restaurant SD needs more of -- great food, reasonable prices (Entrees range from $11-$16.50). Best borscht I've ever had, with flavors jumping out all over the place; great stroganoff; all kinds of exotic Georgian dishes with pungent spices (e.g. pickled cabbage with olives and cinnamon as a side dish). We also got a bottle of dry red Georgian wine that went perfect with the food, especially my braised beef dish. The waittress described the wine as "similar to a cabernet." It reminded me a little more of a Chianti, which isn't my favorite wine, but it went well with this food.
I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who thinks it sounds interesting. Definitely heavy food, but very flavorful. We also liked the atmosphere.
The one I had was from a series of beers made by the same brewery. The name on the label was "Baltika". I know I've seen some of them at BevMo in the past. They are numbered - the one I had was #7 I belive, which was a porter (a very nice porter). Someone else at the table got a different beer altogether (name escapes me). That was a lager and I didn't totally love it. They had a large number of lagers, and two or three darker beers. Of the 8 or 9 beers they had, I believe 5 were Baltika beers. Hope this helps.