In the space of the former Georgian restaurant "Tamada" comes new Lagidze, a more polished place that has improved the menu somewhat. The interior is also renovated, slick yet rustic, but not really conjuring up much of anything. It is a comfortable place to eat nonetheless.
Like most Georgian places in the city, Russian is the language de regueur here, despite a menu that stays faithful to its tiny Caucasian neighbor to the south. They do offer one type of white wine, but allow customers to bring in their own bottles of wine or liquor. Conveniently, there is a store nearby selling both, including a good Georgian selection. Cheap sweet Georgian wine is an acquired taste, so I would recommend spending over $20 for a bottle of a dry red from the Kahketi region.
Also recommended are the mineral waters from Georgia that take the word "mineral" very seriously with strong metallic tastes.
The fresh Georgian salad ($9.95, above), is like most others from the region, but includes a couple thinly sliced green peppers that are surprising when they find your mouth. I like the addition, and might even ask for a little more heat next time.
Simply called eggplant (stuffed with nuts) ($10.95, above and below) in the appetizer section, these wraps are nothing simple. Badrijani, its Georgian name, is a cold dish with mild flavors favoring the bitterness of walnuts but probably includes other nuts as well. A line of pomegranate seeds is dribbled over the top, and the dish is definitely unlike any other. It is a great start to the meal.
No Georgian experience seems complete without at least one order of xachapuri, maybe more known in Georgian cuisine than any other item. We tried the acharuli ($11.95, below), which comes piping hot with a freshly cracked egg on top. The center portion is also laden with butter, and the egg is meant to be mixed up, creating a dipping zone for pieces pulled off from the extremities. The bread is generously filled with soft white cheese and extremely delicious.
Another famous item hard to pass up is xinkali ($9.95, below), meat dumplings that are slightly soupy and wrapped with a very thick skin. In Georgia you toss the tops to the side as proof of how many you've eaten, but we all gobbled these down as well, not willing to give up a bite of the chewy wrappers. The meaty interior was good, but almost too salty to be enjoyable.
The chkmeruli ($14.95, below) comes in a clay bowl and sizzling when it arrives at the table. The aromas and look of the dish are intense and satisfying, but unfortunately the tastes can not quite live up to the presentation. It is good, and worth ordering, just not as intense as it appears. The meat of the bird is juicy and tender, the skin cooked to crispy perfection.
Even though we only were a group of four, we needed at least one dish of meat on a stick on the table and decided to add pork to our mix with the pork kabob ($9.95, below). This turned out to be one of the tables' favorites, the peppery spice in the meat simply delicious. It also comes with very well-cooked potatoes that are mushy inside of a crispy fried skin.
Our last dish was the salianka ($11.95, below), a bowl of beef cubes and pickles that are mixed into the brown salty sauce. The beef is a bit tough, but the gravy helps balance this, as the tartness of the pickles helps balance the salt.
We rolled out of Lagidze happy, despite it not yet being of the caliber of a place like Mtskheta or Pirosmani. They are brand new though, and have plenty of time to up their game.