Day 66: Bagrationi

Bagrationi Georgian Restaurant – photo credit @$@£ from foursquare

Why, you might ask, is a Georgian restaurant being featured in a blog about Uzbekistan?  You probably wondered the same thing about the feature on Korean-Uzbek Cuisine.  While it’s true that Stalin deported millions of Soviet citizens across the USSR, Georgian food, and more famously, Georgian wine, enjoyed a fine tradition of being considered a cuisine of the party elite.  Georgian people found themselves caught up in the mix as well, and some ended up in Tashkent.  As one of the first places in the world where grape vines were tamed for the purpose of making wine, Georgia enjoys a tradition of fine wines dating back at least 8,000 years.  Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, the culinary traditions of Georgia date back at least that far, making for some of the most interesting food in the world.  It’s only natural therefore that Tashkent, as crossroads of the silk-road, host an authentic Georgian Restaurant.

The Bagrationi Georgian restaurant is located on a side street in the popular Ivleva Mahalla of central Tashkent, and is the best place in the city to find authentic home-style Georgian cuisine, made with love.  Few places in the Uzbek capital maintain the same kind of unassuming mom and pop soviet era ambiance, especially since new hip and trendy modern cafes are popping up almost every week all over town.  From the outside only a small wooden sign provides any clue about what lies beyond the large metal door unless you happen to catch a whiff of freshly baked Khachapuri emanating from the kitchen and wafting out onto the street.

Baklazhan with Walnut

From the street, visitors immediately enter into the small courtyard, which is by far the best place to sit during the spring and summer months.  Sitting outside there’s the added benefit of avoiding the intimate but smoky dining rooms in this house turned restaurant.  Indoor smoking is the norm in Uzbekistan, so if you happen to visit during the winter months unfortunately there’s no avoiding smelling like an ashtray following your meal.

Bagrationi features a large menu of all the standard Georgian favorites including khachapuri, khinkali, pkhali, satsivi, an endless variety of salads, meats, vegetables, starters, mains, deserts… you name it, they have it.  Since moving across town we haven’t been able to visit this place as much as we would like, but our standing order looks something like this:

Starters: Baklazhan (grilled eggplant) with walnut topped with pomegranate (seasonal), or variety of pkhali salads of minced cabbage, spinach, or beets.  Maybe we’ll add salty green “vodka” salad with capers, green lettuce, and olives.

khinkali dumplings stuffed with cheese

Mains: Usually we’ll order two… a chicken and a mushroom satsivi, both with garlic and walnut sauce.  If it’s just the two of us we might add some cheese khinkali dumplings, although they don’t like to make less than 5 at a time.  The menu also offers an entire suckling pig if you call in advance, and depending on local availability.  For pork lovers, Bagrationi is a good place to get a fix with options lacking elsewhere.

Sides:  They’ll make fries here (Картофель фри) but we’ll usually only order them out of desperation and if especially hungry, just to have something else on the table.  Nothing authentic about that!  You can also get grilled vegetables, but I prefer the more authentic Lobio cooked in a clay pot.  The first time I tried this cross between refried beans and soup was like a religious experience.

Bread: Although it takes 30 minutes, you must order fresh baked Khachapuri.  You can choose from several varieties, but the standard option with cheese is always a crowd pleaser.  We’ll never order this unless we go here with a group.  Even then there’s always some left over to take home.

homemade Georgian wine by the jug – photo credit CONTRAST ° from foursquare

Wine: At Bagrationi the emphasis is entirely on the food.  Although that’s not to say you can’t order some solidly decent homemade Georgian style wine by the jug if you choose.  The wine they make here is quite good, and for a while was the only local wine we would even consider drinking.  Unlike other more pretentious Georgian restaurants in Tashkent, at Bagrationi the emphasis is definitely on the food.  If you wish, you are more than welcome to bring your own bottle of wine, Georgian or otherwise.  It’s also not uncommon to see a table bring in a bottle of vodka to split between two people.

What else makes Bagrationi special?  The food.  The atmosphere.  The friendly service?  There are no selfie taking café society types to be found here.  Only people who value good food and don’t care about appearances dine here, which makes is a favorite for locals and expats alike.  Table for two with homemade wine and more food that you can eat in one sitting will rarely add up to more than 120,000 сўм ($15.00).  More often than not we’ll walk away for less than 100,000, but the experience is always worth so much more.

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