Oda House - Georgian food in Manhattan
Oda House is probably the only restaurant in Manhattan specializing in food from Georgia (the country in the Caucasus, not the US state). I think it must have opened quite recently, although on Friday evening the restaurant was already fairly busy.
My previous experience with Georgian food was limited to takeout bread from Georgian Bread in Brighton Beach, so the menu was new to me. We had:
Pkhali Trio - cold appetizer. Minced eggplant, spinach, and leeks served in mounds, with pomegranate seeds. I liked the eggplant, which tasted somewhat similar to baba ganoush, and the spinach.
Khinkali - Georgian soup dumplings. These are similar in spirit to Chinese xiao long bao, but they are much larger, and their skin is much thicker. I thought the meat filling was a little dry, but they were good. I prefer xiao long bao myself, but it's apples and oranges.
Adjaruli Khachapuri - pictured, the standout dish of the night. Amazing. Imagine a really nice, soft, almost pizza-ish bread shaped into a dish which is then filled with cheese, with an egg cracked over the top and a pat of butter thrown on for good measure. After eating this, the two of us were basically satiated.
Satsivi - the only "main course" we ordered and our least favorite dish of the night. It is chicken served cold, in a walnut sauce. You get a side of grits with cheese on the side, fortunately this was hot. I thought the chicken was dry and basically tasted like eating refrigerated roast chicken meat. I really think they should have mentioned that this is served cold on the menu, where it is described as "boiled and roasted."
Despite the disappointing chicken dish, I'd definitely go back to explore other parts of the menu. The service was friendly and were willing to answer questions about the menu (I do wish they would have pointed out the chicken was cold!). Casual atmosphere, kind of reminded me of Kafana, also in the neighborhood. There was a Georgian music performance for a few minutes. According to their website, the chef is Georgian and used to work at Mari Vanna.
Oda House is at 5th Street and Avenue B.
Another report: Welcome to the wonderful world of meat, cheese and ground walnuts. I’m working my way through the menu - bottom line: Oda House is worth going to. My opinions so far:
Beef Salad (boiled beef with cucumber, prunes, cherry tomatoes, grilled scallions, sour cream and dijon mustard sauce). An unfamiliar combination of ingredients to be sure, but very tasty.
Pkhali Trio (eggplant, spinach and leeks with walnut sauce). Three scoops, one of each vegetable melded with very finely ground walnuts, intentionally on the dry side. Particularly good if folks at the table insist on getting something green that isn't all meat and cheese!
Qindzmari (boiled catfish with fresh cilantro, garlic and vinegar sauce). This is the only dish that I can't recommend; it just doesn't work. Some folks wouldn’t go past the first bite. We couldn't finish that one and we're all adventurous eaters.
Kuchmachi (boiled chicken liver and gizzards with walnut sauce). Good as well. Ground walnuts add interest; the liver and gizzards were tender and flavorful.
Khinkali (dumplings). Not really intended to be soup dumplings, they just look like XLB on steroids. These were certainly enjoyable (as all dumplings tend to be). The menu describes a mixture of beef and pork, but you can request them filled with lamb, a better option IMO.
Oda House Special (grilled liver with a sour cream cheese sauce, baked in lavash bread). Just what it sounds like; not unusual, but not bad.
Chakapuli (slow-cooked lamb with tarragon, mint, etc.) Excellent. Very tender lamb and herby, particularly if you're a tarragon lover. The second time I ordered this, they had oversalted it, but I'll forgive the inconsistency.
The breads. Ah, Georgian breads. The crown jewels of the cuisine. Don't think of them as bread any more than you would think of pizza as bread. Very filling.
Adjaruli. Shaped like a dugout canoe filled with melted cheese, butter and an egg (see Pravit's photo). Stir all the ingredients together and the hot bread will cook the egg. Dip the bread in the cheesy goodness. Smile. A crowd pleaser.
Megruli. Flat, round, stuffed and topped with melted cheese. A little on the salty side (which some of this food can be) but top notch.
Chvishtari. Ovals of cheese and corn flour, lightly fried. These are only okay, but the walnut sauce they're served with makes them worthwhile.
Kubdari. Another flat, round bread this time stuffed with nicely seasoned chopped beef. Flavorful as well.
Pelamushi. Think of this as grape pudding, perhaps an acquired taste. I liked it; my dining companions looked at me like I was crazy. Fine. More for me.
I have very fond memories of eating in Tbilisi (sadly, those photos were mostly lost in the great reformatting of ought-9). Particularly, a roasted eggplant and pepper caviar and kofta with pomegranate and pickles on the side. Khinkali and baklava were great too, though if I studied a few foods written in Georgian in advance it would have been bittersweet- more delicious food yes, but no photos to remind myself of them.
I was there about a month ago. I hadn't had Georgian food since I spent a week there back in, um, 1978. The khinkali at Oda were much more refined than the gut-busters of those Soviet days. (They're not soup dumplings, but should be nice and moist inside, which these were.) The phkali trio made a lovely presentation -- the spinach with pomegranate seeds nice and festive, and we really loved the leeks with walnut sauce. I found the chvishtari (cornmeal bread) on the greasy side, but it was tasty. My friend apparently enjoyed his satsivi, because I couldn't snag a bite. The chakapuli, however, is heavenly, if you really like tarragon, which I really do. A good selection of Georgian wines. The service was a bit scattered, but the staff did display the legendary Georgian hospitality. I am definitely going back.
Thanks, pravit. Actually there's another Georgian restaurant in town: Pepela, which opened this year on East 30th. I grabbed a card when I passed by but haven't tried it. Looks kind of posh in the Russian style.
There are vegan options, so Bill Clinton could eat there (see pic).