Chowfind- Suliko- Georgian- Alness and Steeles
1131 Alness St , NE corner Steeles and Alness
Georgian. Soul food but, no, not from the Georgia of watermelons and chitlins.
Ten dollar set lunch.
Three small rolls, ramekins of butter, tomato sauce, crushed chili pepper, then chopped salad, chicken noodle soup (like wow, man!), chicken meat balls on a bed of mashed potatoes.
I have had a series of losing adventures, then came Suliko.
As if I got invited to someone's home and the mother made lunch, and made it with love. Everything, everything, was delicious.
Forget about what you think of Russian cooking. There is no salt attack here,
no wallowing in fat, no clumsiness anywhere. But you do have to like dill, and it was fresh dill. How do I describe the food quickly? Slavic -European ingredients and dishes, refined a Lebanese aesthetic complete with the use of lots of herbs and spices, which of course differ, a French standard of quality. I know, I know, what do I know that I can opine on four cuisines? But I want to say something quickly as I wait in my parked car. In any event, everything was good and delicious and you have lunch there and decide to what you want to compare the food.
Not only delicious and interesting but also generous portions. A $20 meal- for- the- day at lunch for $10 if they added a coffee, and I am cheap.
The mains and soup change daily. There is a choice between two mains. Monday to Friday lunch I think, call and find out.
I've got Georgia on my mind and can't wait until tomorrow's lunch.
One of my favourite cookbook reads is Paula Wolfert, The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. There is a big section on Georgian cooking. Fruit, nuts, herbs and spices. Try it, you will like it.
Today's lunch for $9.95.
Three little fresh and warm whole wheat bread rolls, a ramekin each of butter, chili heat, plum chutneyand tomato chutney, (decided that they are chutneys not sauces), a small bowl of marinated cauliflower with a few olives (what control!), an exquisite vegetable soup in a clear broth (they called it cabbage soup), a big bowl of chopped salad with dill, baked (more like poached) salmon, mashed potatoes.
Everything was house made and good except the butter and the butter was weak. I passed on the chili heat.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
I finished lunch too early for an appointment further along Steeles Ave, even post post, so I had dessert to kill time, the carrot cake.
A dinner plate, with a decorative drizzle of two kinds of fruit syrup. Then a good sized slice of carrot cake loaf, not an oil trap, and with no icing; dense, lots of fruit and nuts in it. Sided by a scoop of chocolate nut ice cream and a mound of whipped cream. Garnished with three sliced strawberries and two blackberrries , dusted with icing sugar .
The plate was full. Enough for two easily.
My diet can't handle this.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
A $3 dessert in a town where the average mid-level resto now charges $8-$9 for a sweet ending! How could I resist? I couldn't. So when I and a friend found ourselves driving by Suliko around dinner time last night, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Too late to take advantage of VVM's much-lauded lunchtime deals, alas, but still modestly-priced at dinner. Russian-style nosh is nothing to swoon over, but if you're in the mood, it can be satisfying - and substantial. As at Aragvi on Sheppard Ave. West, the only other Georgian resto I've been to, the soups, salads and small dishes seem better executed, and more attractively presented, than the mains. Borscht and harcho soups are tasty and filling. Cobb salad - Cobb salad in a Georgian resto? - tasty as well, though there's no blue cheese in the salad to stitch all the ingredients together. (Ver vaste: maybe that's how the Georgians do the Cobb.) Didn't try the dumplings, but a nearby table seemed to be enjoying them. A garlicky Cornish hen main was okay - the accompanying, pablum-like mashed potatoes could use some zip and some texture, though. Dreary wine and beer list (with Georgian wines hilariously overpriced), but the same could be said for most Russian-style restos. It's vodka they care about, not wine. As for the $3 carrot cake: it's exactly as VVM describes it. Being a carrot cake buff, I've had better, I've had worse, but at $3 it's just about the maddest sit-down dessert value in town. I'm told it's house made. Available at both lunch and dinner.
Located just off Steeles Ave. West, three stoplights west of Dufferin, in a small, bleak plaza - mind, all the plazas up that way are bleak - with lots of parking. The joint was about one-third full on an early Friday evening, with what I take to be a mostly Russian/Georgian emigre clientele of a certain age. Charming, if somewhat amateurish and slightly overwhelmed, service - they could use another server on the floor. Some erratic pricing. Most dishes are less expensive than at Aragvi and other similar restos, but some are startlingly higher. Altogether, a positive experience, if you can discover and stick with what the kitchen does best. And then, of course, there's that remarkable $3 carrot cake platter.
I had lunch at Suliko every day last week and I had a couple of small suppers as well. At the price -$10 at lunch -with the quality and quantity, what a deal! Meal for the day.
Here is how my meals went.
The best lunch was the first one and it merited my gushing in the OP. Salad, chicken soup, chicken meatballs .
All the week’s soups were excellent except for the harcho and the beet borscht. Sorry Juno. The harcho was beef based , not lamb and and not interesting at all. There was no sparkle to it; as if the flavours had flattened and evaporated. Nothing objectionable, but just soup.
The beet borscht was ordinary . The sweet and sour had not melded, but this could be my fault because I refused the sour cream offered . Otherwise, it was too refined and without any flavour texture. But I am Polish and this a Georgian restaurant. What I did was throw in- and eat - the squeezed lemon slices fished out from my water glass. This improved the borscht.
The mashed potatoes with the meatballs (first time) were plain but delicious; I do not like pudding mashed potatoes. After that they got increasingly watery. They were stayed good, but increasingly less so. Age?
The salmon on the main was done ordinary Canadianesque , quite OK but a bit of a bore in an ethnic restaurant. Wedding banquet salmon: offends nobody.
The steak sandwich was delicious, and even startingly so. The meat was superb – tasty, nicely cooked and enough of it.
I had mine “ deconstructed”- tomato, lettuce, onion on the side. I wanted the horseradish mayo on the side as well, but the bun had been smeared. I scraped off the mayo. There was little taste of horseradish in it and I did without the mayo. I don’t see why one would want mayo with meat that good. I ate the veggies separately, again in honour of the meat. Next time I think that I would have it open face, same reason. The bun was whole wheat and quite good. I would have done something else for the bun, but I don’t know what Georgians like for bread.
I passed on the set lunch the day that they had chicken wings or basa with cheese. I had the beet salad and the bean salad.
The beet salad to my tastes was too strong with garlic and vinegar. These tastes masked the beets and everything else. If I, as a non- Georgian, were making the salad, I would have made it brighter. I would cut down on the garlic and vinegar and include orange “confit”.
The crushed (red?) bean et. al. salad was more enjoyable, but again for me had unfulfilled potential. Here, the flavours were too weak. I would add more and stronger flavour notes- more sautéed onion, maybe coriander or nigella, or perhaps cloves or a bit of chili. An experiment . Perhaps make it with black beans and start flavouring from there?
The apple strudel wqs not what I expected. Quite OK, but been there, done that, particularly since I am not interested in desserts. For $4.25 and with enough to share, it is too much trouble to explain. You try it.
At supper I had the Lula kebob. Two large skewers of minced lamb, sided with boiled red potatoes in a heavier garlic and lighter vinegar sauce, slightly warmed. A good combination. The lamb kebob were delicious, I can’t remember better. Like the meat in the steak sandwich, very good and tasty.
Not a tapas sharing menu (!), but order every dish to share. This is what the natives do. Order again if you want more. If you order like you do elsewhere you will end up with (far) too much food.
I had a couple more things, but this post is long enough. Next time I wll try the dumplings, which seem to be a big thing.
I was disappointed that more fruit was not utilized in the cooking. And that more of the cooking was not brighter. You can take the Slav out of the USSR , but you can’t put him into Lebanon. ( But I am not in a Lebanede restaurant; I just wish that for me, more dishes tended that way.) Nevertheless, Suliko can be very good, even to those with unadventuresome palates, and even can be refined, if you order wisely. It helps to like dill.
I had had one trip to Aragvi, the Georgian restaurant that Juno mentions. I found it significantly more expensive, quite OK, but I had nothing special. Perhaps I ordered the wrong things.
Further to Juno. I don’t know what on the Suliko menu was expensive. Everything I remember is reasonably priced, cheap or really cheap. As for wine prices, I go there to eat not to drink.
The bottom line is that if you order well you will have a superb meal for very little.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
Borscht and harcho soups today. As if made by a different hand. I was told that they had been made the day before. Freshness helped with the harcho because of the spicing, but there had to be more. They now are up to the standard of the other soups.
I threw a tiny bit of the house made plum chutney into the harcho and it added to the complexity nicely.
The borscht was a bit salty to my taste , but I had passed on the sour cream which would have tempered the salt. Again I threw in the lemon slices, chopped, and they improved the soup.
The meat crepe was very good. It was freshly made; the one that I had previously had been frozen and much of the niceness had been taken out by the freezing -resurrection process. The plum chutney was good with it
If you go the real Georgian restaurant you will experience real Georgian cooking, not this fake Georgian wannabe!
Go to "Georgia" on 1118 Finch Ave W #2, North York, ON M3J 3J4 (416) 907-2200 They have lunch special $7 with a soft drink included . Then tell me what a good food is Georgian food not from this Russian place
You know, the second time I went to Suliko, by mistake I turned off at Finch rather than at Steeles and went west and passed Georgia. I will try Georgia, maybe tomorrow. I had intended to try Georgia, thank you for the impetus. In the meantime, my lunch here is delicious and a bargain.
Thai chicken-rice soup- I know, not Georgian and only Thaiesque sort-off- was good in a not too sophisticated way; the chicken meatballs with mashed potatoes were excellent. A bit of horseradish taste in the salad, which I liked. Maybe picked up from a cutting board and unintended.
I saw a couple who had come to Souliko on Friday for the first time return today for lunch. "Canadian", older, BMW roadster convertible.
Sadistick, thank you for tolerating my gushing, but that a customer likes something is not much of an answer except at the accountant's office where it is the only answer: McDonald's is very popular. I understand enough to understand that some of the menu is not Georgian, and that for some of the Georgian items that I have tried and which I didn't discuss- Paula Wolfert reads better than the item that I got ate .
But lunch is a winner, often every part of it, and this is indeed what matters.
I did, but not for all the items, liked or otherwise.
I have to be somewhat modest, respectful and reticent because there is great skill in and pleasure from many of the items. For other items, I not familiar with the cuisine so as to know what these items are capable of being. So I can only say that the items were nothing special to me rather than that they were badly executed. And maybe I better say nothing until I learn something.
I can't impose my palate on another food culture. I remember the reaction by a very good Lebanese cook when I had him try some very good Polish -Jewish pickled herring! I did mention how I would change some items to better suit me, but so what, I am not Georgian.
A peek at Georgia's website - a resto I'd never heard of before - reveals that there is some, but not all that much, difference between its menu and Suliko's. Or, for that matter, Aragvi's. A few menu items seem out of place if you want authentic Georgian, I suppose - a Cobb salad here, a Caesar salad there, maybe a carrot cake for dessert, or a couple of items you'll usually find in an Israeli and/or Middle Eastern resto - but you can't blame management for wanting to expand its reach beyond those who yearn for nosh just like it was back home in good ol' Georgia. So long as they properly execute the basics.
About Kavkaz, I don't know a thing - other than a review a while back in the Toronto Star. It seems that Kavkaz is a fancier joint, with prices substantially higher than its competitors. My instinct is to try Georgia, to see how it matches against Suliko and Aragvi. Perhaps sakartvelo, who seems to know the place, could advise me what to order there to get the essence of true Georgian cooking.
I ended up looking at the Georgian restaurants in Toronto on Yelp and the like . I concluded that it was just like back in the USSR (fn.). Anonymous denunciations. Fantastic glorifying propaganda . So the posts are not reliable. I have not been able to find sakartveto's other posts on CH. I looked to see if I could figure out his tastes.
I am entertaining the thought that Georgian restaurant cooking in Toronto may not be all that Georgian. There are very few Georgians in Toronto but several Georgian restaurants. It seems that Georgian restaurants have a special appeal to Russians. Akin to the appeal that Chinese restaurants had to Toronto Jews. So we got such famous “Chinese“ restaurants as Sea-Hi Tavern and House of Chan. Essentially, the restaurants adapted to their clientele's taste, such as it was. In the case of the Georgian places means Russian dishes and a Russian cooking influence.
I had lunch at Georgia. The room is great, a worthwhile experience in itself . Done up in grande luxe Russe. All dusty rose and old gold, elaborate, like an over- decorated living room from an era bygone elsewhere. But with a stage and a disco ball. Chandeliers, fancy chairs, white table clothes, fancy place settings. The main business seems to be parties and celebrations.
Now my lunch. Start with a potato salad “Oliviade” (occasionally a soup instead). Quite a nice potato salad but there must have been a cinquo de mayo in it; it was embalmed and oozing. This is indeed how the dish is made but it is not for me. Oliviades is a Russian dish.
There was a choice of two mains for lunch. Chicken kotelt (sort of burger –meatball) and cabbage rolls (pork in with the mix). Both of are Russian, Polish , etc as well.
The chicken kotlet was lighter than I have had before (the addition of a lot of grain, maybe burghul). It was pleasant in a boring way. I did not like the patty of butter that had been put in the middle. I removed it. The advertised herb was a bit of parsley in the middle with the butter.
As a concession, they gave me both kasha (buckwheat) and mashed potatoes as sides. I asked because I didn’t want to get a mountain of either one. The kasha was plain and good. The mashed potatoes were good for a baby but not my idea of a good time.
As an extra I had the lamb khinkali– the dumplings – a Georgian item. (Five minimum order, $1.30 each. I took four home. They were good at just below room temperature from overnight in the car.) The wrapper and the filling were a whole grade better than at Suliko. The Suliko khinkali surprised me because most of what I have had at Suliko has been quite refined and excellent.
I think that the khinkali would be better in a soup. That's my taste. Everywhere else some dumpling ends up in soup- Germany , Hungary, Iraq, Italy , Poland , Russia etc. but not in Georgia.
The menus at the two places are much the same, as has been noted previously I would think that Irma who runs Georgia cooks with a light hand. I have to try some of her soups to test the cooking
Bread basket, potato salad, chicken kotlet palate, soft drink , $7.99 . A good deal. But there is no lunch like the one at Suliko. Head and shoulders a better lunch and for only $9.99. Also it is one that you can go to every day of the week. I have. The beef quinoa soup today was excellent, as was the chopped veg salad and the mashed potato side. I am not big on chicken wings ( I refuse basa, the alterative) and the BBQ sauce wasn’t interesting. But if only the soup and the salad, it would have been a pleasure at $9.99. The Suliko lunch dares the customer not to come in. But pick your day according to the menu and your preferences
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
Thanks for taking the hit at Georgia. It doesn't sound like my kind of joint, though the over-the-top decor may be good for a laugh. If I'm in the mood for that kind of nosh up that way at dinner, I think I'll stick with Suliko, where I know the soups and salads are solid, and the occasional main, as well as the mad-buy $3 carrot cake (so long as it stays at $3).
I'm sure most everyone who's not an outright naif already does tread warily. Still, if you know how to read - and who to read - with skeptical amusement, you can do reasonably well on sites like Chowhound. I've picked up more good tips than duds on this site over the past few years.
juno. Thank you for the compliment.
afong56. I am honest. And I am right. But I do recognize that even Moses and Jesus made one mistake. But what can you say on this board about someone who brought us forth to Rakusen's matzo. (It's English.)
juno. I have never seen anything like the two sets of postings for the Georgian restaurants. It is as if two armies confronting each other. And there is no attempt to slip in the dagger in the course of what seems to be a fair comment, which skill is practiced by one Chowhou'nd.