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Jul 19, 2012 09:01 PM

Satellite Republic

Mopeds, Georgia, cooking, pottery: Boris Portnoy's favorite things, as he says on the Facebook page for Satellite Republic, his new venture that combines them all. Boris and his moped-mounted tandoor grill came to South Park to serve Georgian lunch the other day and I was compelled to go investigate.

The menu for the day was two bread-based items: khachapuri (cheese bread with chili sauce) and lamb tandir sandwich. The bread is the star. He has a couple of boxes of little flour-dusted doughballs that he bakes to order in the tandoor, coming out with mixed tender and crispy bits.

The feta and mozzarella in the khachapuri are great with the dried-chili-and-herb sauce. I could eat them all day.

For the sandwich, Boris uses lamb raised in marshes around San Pablo, which he says has a similar effect to the pré-salé lamb of Brittany (I'm not sure I could tell). He's using shoulder, cooked sous-vide then heated in the tandoor. Lovely flavor, moist and tender. Super-tart plum sauce, mild white onion and parsley on top--great, if perhaps a bit too tart on the balance.

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  1. Good to see a post from you again, "dml", and even better that it's about Satellite Republic.

    Have been following the progress as I'd had a little excursion into Georgian food a couple years ago. Would love to taste khachapuri baked in the tandoor. The tart green plum sauce is called tkemali, had tried to find some. Maybe he made his own, as the green plum season has just passed.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      The Republic of Georgia is well regarded for their wines, usually red, and I wonder if any are being served by Boris. Likely not, but reading about this good makes me think of the wines of Georgia.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I didn't explicitly ask but I'd be shocked if he didn't make the tkemali. The point of the Satellite Republic venture seems to be about obsessing over the details: the custom-fabricated moped, the ceramic tandoor thrown by his pottery teacher, baking bread to order, etc. And Portnoy is, after all, former pastry chef from Meadowood, so no slouch.

        1. re: dml

          According to TastingTable's piece today, he does indeed make his tkemali and adjika from scratch. Some nice shots in the slideshow,

          No one has mentioned any desserts, wonder why he doesn't pack a tray of sweets to increase his sales.

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          hi melanie, you are right. plum season just passed and i collected and made alot of tkemali, so when its gone, it's gone till next year.

        3. I finally got to taste some of Boris' food last Saturday. I loved his non/naan and his sauces. And it is so hard to find good Georgian food in this area, notwithstanding the tasty churchkhela at the Moscow &Tblisi Bakery Store on Geary. (I think Boris posted a photo of churchkela on his Satellite Republic website.) Still I have to agree with David Kinch's recent comments on cooking lamb sous vide:

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dave.Pitinga

            dave, can't wait to make churchkhela when the grapes ripen in napa in october ! as far as the lamb, i'm going to do some experiments and side by side tastings, but there is no way to get the lamb belly that tender without braising the flesh. i do like love that this conversation is happening, especially about georgian food and modern trends.

            1. re: borisportnoy

              Kundan Lal Gujral faced a similar problem: It's a tough nut to crack. I can't wait to try your churchkhela...and any of your other creations. PS. John Driver got his CandyCot apricots from some other "satellite republics": Unfortunately, his season is over, too. The joys and sorrows of eating seasonally & locally.

          2. I went to a pop-up dinner at Punchdown last night. Fantastic food, nine courses prix-fixe. My favorites were the Kubdari, a pork-filled flatbread seasoned with khmeli-suneli; Khachapuri, cheese-stuffed bread; and lamb mtsvadi, kind of a tandoori kebab, with adjika chile sauce. For $40 it was one of the best values I've had in a long time.

            I would have posted about the event but it sold out immediately.

            1 Reply
            1. Back at the Punchdown Saturday and Sunday. Menu and reservation link on