>> Royal Garden Tbilisi | Eat the World NYC

08 August 2020

Royal Garden Tbilisi


[COVID-19 UPDATE: Besides the couple tables in front, used mostly for coffee and lunch on the weekday of this visit, the restaurant has a covered outdoor space in the garden that can host quite a few people. Customers wishing for ample spacing and appropriate mask usage by staff and other customers might wish to avoid this place.]

On the few occasions that meals were taken at We Are Georgian, the previous tenant at this Kings Highway address, the small bakery and restaurant had always impressed. Last year, well before stay at home orders, a walk in the area had noticed that a new restaurant had unfortunately taken its place, but plans to give it a shot were made.

More than halfway through 2020, with outdoor dining in full bloom throughout the five boroughs, it seemed like the appropriate time to come back. Photos online showed a new backyard with plenty of seats and even a small stage for live music, which was all ready for action for a Friday evening that was fully booked a day in advance. No one was around for lunch though, the perfect time to sample the kitchen on short notice.

Even at lunch, and with a lack of customers, the music will be on in the garden as the soundtrack to everyone getting things set up for the busy night. Grab a table or a lounge-style seat and take a look through the menu. There are no descriptions for eaters less familiar with the names of Georgian foods, so either stick to what you know or start Googling.

One item that needs no introduction and is usually familiar to anyone that has eaten Georgian even just once is their dumpling. The khinkali (above) are listed as $2 per piece, but an order must contain at least six, so any dreams of ordering just one each as to be able to sample more dishes do not come to fruition. Regardless, performing such an abomination might get you thrown out of the place anyways.

Inside the thick wrapper, along with minced meats are just of hint of spiciness and a high level of herbs. It is delicious, although not juicy like most. The proper technique is to grab the thick top where the dough twists together and eat the rest, tossing the doughy stump to the side when finished. In Georgia, these piles of tops are almost like a record, as groups of men stack theirs and compete against each other while downing frosty mugs of beer.

When the khachapuri adjaruli ($14, above and below) arrived at the table, all eyes widened and there may have been just a bit of drool forming. The bread "boat" had puffed up and risen high above its cheesy interior, possibly setting a record in New York City for tallest khachapuri.

Take photos quickly and stir in the butter and egg before the cheese starts cooling. Once you have a good mix, start tearing off chunks of bread and dip them into the center to pull the cheese out. Served on a cutting board not even as long as the khachapuri, there is absolutely no way to keep this from getting messy, but it is worth it hands down.

Not appearing like much when it arrives at the table in a nondescript bowl, the megruli kharcho ($15, below) is actually a great order. Megruli is a descriptor for something from Samegrelo in western Georgia, which reaches both the coast of the Black Sea and up into the Caucasus Mountains. No matter what style of kharcho you are eating, there will be an abundance of walnuts pureed into the soup, and indeed the word "walnuts" is even added to the menu.

The soup is spicier than most things you will order at a Georgian restaurant, with a few flakes of roasted Turkish red pepper floating on the surface. Nuggets of dried beef are found beneath the surface, chewy like jerky and just right to suit the other tastes, which besides the tomato walnut puree include cherry plum paste for tartness, paprika, and fenugreek.

As always in Brooklyn, a 10% service charge will show up on your bill. No matter what the final price of the meal, there are leftovers and good value.

Kings Highway lost one good Georgian restaurant but gained another. Life moves on.

230 Kings Highway

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