Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Georgian Food at Mtskheta Cafe

Once again I've found myself overly complacent. Mtskheta Cafe, a new Georgian restaurant near the end of the D train in South Brooklyn (in what may or may not be Bensonhurst) blasted onto my radar with a review in New York Magazine of all places. A scouting trip with Jared Cohee of Eating the World in NYC that same day confirmed that I should probably return.

That Friday, we showed up with a large group for a birthday party where we ordered much of the menu (and also had much to drink). Then, I sat on my post. Subsequent write-ups by Jared, Wilfrid of At the Sign of the Pink Pig and Dave Cook at Eaten in Translation showed that I really had a lot to add to the conversation.... Regardless (I've sold this quite well, I'm sure), I'll add what I can (having been to a lot of Georgian restaurants in the city, I believe my self-proclaimed expertise means my voice should be heard).

At the first meal with Jared, we decided to keep our order lean and mean with kupati, khachapouri and a Georgian salad. Also, the all-Russian menu was daunting, so we just named a few dishes to try. Our young, English-speaking waiter pushed the garlic chicken, but we'd already ordered too much. This type of food requires alcohol. I was unprepared, but ran to the Rite Aid down the street, where the best of a bad selection was Heineken tall boys. Those would do.

I returned to chewy lavash bread and soon our khachapouri arrived. It was buttery, almost like movie theater popcorn and overflowing with cheese, but otherwise unremarkable. Stick with Pirosmani or Georgian Bread for khachapouri.

Kupati, beef and pork sausages, arrived on a sizzling platter with fries and raw onions. I seemed to enjoy them far more than my companions on both occasions. The addition of sour plum sauce certainly helped.

Friday night I returned for a birthday party with my friend Lizzie, who speaks Georgian, and who we completely relied upon to order (as usually happens in these situations). She claimed to have ordered too much, but it's never too much.

For drinking, we had the ubiquitous honey pepper vodka, some kind of Armenian brandy and beers-- Heineken and Miller High Life. Also, Borjomi, lots of delicious Borjomi.

Badrijani, slices of eggplant rolled around light, fluffy walnut paste and topped with pomegranate seeds, was one of the better versions I've had. This is an essential order and probably the lightest way you can start a meal here.

The only stew we tried contained lamb and tarragon. The rich broth tasted mostly of anise and long-stewed lamb, which we eagerly soaked up with lavash bread. Speaking of dipping bread, make sure to get the thinned out walnut paste (almost like a walnut tahini) to pour over the bread.

Miniature football-shaped corn fritters were best paired with a stinky, ultra salty, sulfuric cheese along with the squishy, low-moisture-mozzarella-type cheese that was raved about in NY Magazine. Both cheeses by themselves were unpalatable, but in different ways. The mozzarella was flavorless, and the cheese was overpoweringly sulfuric. Trust me, only take a small bite of it on its own before combining.

We should have listened to the waiters recommendation of the garlic chicken on our first trip, since this was the highlight of the night. The chicken, which remained tender (unlike at other places), was bathed in a garlic sauce enlivened with more butter than I'd care to imagine. The younger waiter speaks very good English, and, like I said, the menu is entirely in Russian, so you're putting a great deal of faith in your waiter. If he pushes you toward the garlic chicken, you'd best follow his lead.

After a 45 minute wait, during which I passed out no less than two times (what? I lost count of the shots I'd taken after five), we were finally served our kinkali, which we dutifully showered with black pepper. The all-beef filling was disappointing, not as good as the pork and beef combo ones I'd tried at Tbilisi or even at Pirosmani. 

So after two visits, I can safely say that Mtskheta Cafe doesn't upset the hierarchy of Georgian restaurants I've visited in Brooklyn. The top two remain Pirosmani and Tbilisi Cafe & Bakery, while Georgian Bread is in its own category. Still, Mtskheta Cafe was likely the friendliest, most welcoming Georgian restaurant we've visited. So as long as you bring some friends (and alcohol), you won't be disappointed.

Mtskheta Cafe
2568 86th St
(between Bay 41st St & Stillwell Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11214

Mtskheta Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. This is too funny. I hadn't been to your blog for awhile and just though I needed to check it out if you had any more Georgian posts :)

    I hadn't had kupati forever. My grandparents used to fix kupati from scratch every December after slaughtering a hog. This was in Imereti, where they use pomegranate seeds for kupati.

    This was such a helpful post. I'm taking mental notes for my next trip to NYC (actually, I just went there not too long ago, but didn't have a chance to visit any Georgian restaurants). I totally don't understand why they would not have English menus. I am Georgian, but I would not hesitate to tell them: Hello! You're in America!!! Well, ok I would not actually say it but would think it.
    Also, I can't imagine eating Georgian food and not being surrounded by friendly (sometimes too friendly)and rumbustious bunch of Georgians. Oh how I miss all that. I wish I lived in NYC. No Georgian restaurants here in Nashville, TN :(
    Glad that place was friendly, since we Georgians pride ourselves in being hospitable- unfriendly Georgian restaurant seems like an oxymoron. Anyway, glad Mtskheta Cafe was friendly. Thanks for this post.

  2. I just read your reply on Facebook about new English menus. Great news. I wish the place all the best!!

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