London - Georgian cuisine at Tamada, St John's Wood
On a cold, wintry evening in St John's Wood 3 nights ago, the brightly-lit Tamada Georgian restaurant shone like a beacon, offering warmth & good comfort food.
We started off with the ubiquitous Georgian staple: Kachapuri, a delicious cheese-filled, griddle bread.
This was followed by the Lobio, a hearty kidney bean stew with a strong garlicky flavor, enhanced with generous amounts of shredded fresh coriander leaves.
Another interesting starter was the Sacivi - cold poached chicken breasts, smothered with a creamy walnut sauce & served cold.
The Khinkali - large Georgian dumplings filled with beef & pork followed next. The dumplings also contained copious amounts of meat juices (like Chinese xiao long bao) and, as Limster demonstrated, the proper way to eat one is to tilt one's face upwards, lift one of those hot dumplings above one's mouth, nibble a hole on the base of the dumpling, and suck out the juices! I didn't try that as I reckon there's a high likelihood that I'll end up splashing hot meat juices all over my face, and shirt front. Still, those dumplings were really tasty.
The second main course we had was the house specialty - Jarkoe: a baked veal, potatoes, cheese, herbs, & golden-fried onion casserole, topped with rather strong tasting tarragon on top. It was rich and heavy.
Desserts were the ruby-coloured red grape-wheatflour Georgian pudding, and the "Ideali", a traditional mille-feuille-like Georgian walnut layer cake which was extremely sweet.
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Really enjoyed the kachapuri -- a nice shade of bouncy quality to the cheese, flanked by the thin crisp surfaces of the flat bread.
Loved the kidney beans, which I thought were cooked just right, soft but yielding with a very light pop or crack; great flavour too.
The walnut sauce in the chicken was very smooth, and very slightly nutty, the finely ground walnuts dispersed among the cream; chicken had reasonable flavour by itself, and went well with the sauce. There was a part of me that wanted a stronger walnut presence, but it wasn't bad.
The skins on the khinkali has a hearty noodley texture, and the filling was good. The baked veal was indeed quite heavy, and the strong herb flavours did tone down the richness a bit.
The desserts, while pleasant, were probably the less appealing to me.
Comparatively, I thought the Georgian cuisine offered at Tamada is not bad - I was at Daredzhani, a Georgian restaurant in Kazakhstan recently, brought there by two of my Georgian office colleagues who said they loved the food there for its authenticity:
The Satsivi (chicken in walnut sauce) was the same as Tamada's - a rather liquid, pale-coloured walnut sauce covering cold, poached chunks of chicken breast-meat.
The cheese-filled Kachapuri we had at Tamada was Imeretian (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9971...) , from a region in the middle of Georgia. There's also Adjaran Kachapuri, from the south-west of the country, that incorporates egg-and-butter topping (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9971...).