In early August, a friend bound for Georgia was in town and wanted to go for Georgian food before her trip. I decided to combine her wish with my desire to visit Cafe Caucasia, one of a few restaurants on Bensonhurst's 86th Street. When we showed up, there was paper on the windows and construction happening inside. Like Georgia Cafe before it, Cafe Caucasia was done and was now morphing into another Georgian restaurant.
After two attempts over the past months to return and try the food only to be met by private events, the third time was finally the charm. There was indeed another party, but they were only occupying about half of the restaurant and it was still open to the public. Shortly after sitting down, a natural born performer took to the "stage" and started belting out Russian karaoke songs to the delight of the party.
It was fun for a few tunes, but it was deafeningly loud and prevented me and my friend from having any conversation. I was told by the waitress that this is an ongoing event on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so I do recommend avoiding those nights if you want to speak with your companions. On the other hand, if you feel like dancing and enjoying somewhat of a spectacle...
On the front of the menu are the flags of the United States and Georgia. Indeed inside the names of the dishes were only written in English and Georgian, completely leaving Russian language out of the equation, something you don't find in your typical Georgian restaurant in New York City. Since Georgia does not really like Russia in real life, this made me optimistic for some reason, although all the dialogue between customers and servers was in Russian.
As most of the place was up dancing, our dishes started arriving, beginning with the chicken in walnut sauce ($15, below), a dish always served cold as an appetizer. Here it is top notch, although the pieces are hacked whole so you do need to maneuver the bones, which can be challenging through the thick sauce.
The typical Georgian salad ($10, below) is spruced up a bit with mint and maybe sugar as I detected hints of sweetness. As usual, the tomatoes and cucumbers were crisp.
Gebzhalia Sulguni cheese in mint and sour cream sauce ($12, below) is not only a mouthful but was a new dish for me and pretty self explanatory. The mint leaves are rolled up in the cheese, which is much like mozzarella. I stole a tomato from the salad and made myself an Italian appetizer at one point.
After this, hot food began with the ostri ($15, below) beef stew in a tomato sauce. This is a fairly delicious bowl, but for the price the shallow dish does not really offer good value. We asked for bread and they even ended up charging us $3 for that.
The imeruli khachapuri ($10, below) is on the opposite end of the spectrum, gut busting value. The nice dough and more sulguni cheese had no complaints from me, but I did put aside two thirds of my portion to take home for the next day so that I could attempt to tackle the rest of our meal.
As always, Georgian dumplings ($10, below) are made fresh and take the longest, arriving last at our table. These are also good value, and read more herbal than usual, toning down slightly the saltiness. Fair warning when eating these anywhere if you have not already burned yourself, let them cool a bit and tilt the juice away from you when you take that first bite.
By the time we were done with all of our plates, the big birthday party had left and only one other small table was full. This however had no effect on the entertainer who kept belting out songs with the audio system cranked up to 10.