By location (Finch and Dufferin) and décor (fancy banquet hall) alone, you might pass Georgia Restaurant by without a second thought.
But go - because Georgia is not only one of the best restaurants in the GTA, it’s also insanely healthy and affordable. And let’s face it, you’ve probably never had Georgian food before. It’s time to add it to your roster of usual go-tos of burgers, sushi and ramen.
"I want to introduce Canadians to Georgian cuisine. In the U.S., it’s very popular. I want to put it on the map," says Irma Bodokia, chef and owner of Georgia Restaurant.
Despite the restaurant soon approaching its fourth anniversary, the cuisine is still relatively unknown in Toronto.
Appetizers include Adjarian Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread with eggs), Khinkhali (Georgian-style dumplings), Badrijani (eggplant and garlic with pomegranate seeds and walnut paste) and Dolma (ground lamb with rice and aromatic herbs wrapped in grape leaves), the original Georgian appetizer.
Choose from a variety of enticing soups – Kharcho (Georgian lamb and beef soup) and Borsch, a Russian soup made from beets. Solianka is a mixed meat soup with olives, capers, tomatoes and lemons and Ukha Soup, boasts fish. Okroshka with vegetables and potatoes, is served cold.
And while you might be used to your meat, fish, and vegetables being roasted on a spit, can you say you’ve had your cheese cooked this way? Food is strung onto metal skewers (shampurs) and placed on burning coals, far away from any flames, turned repeatedly until done. You’ll notice the difference right away – not only are meat and veg juicy (for shishakebobs, the meat is cut and marinated for a minimum of four hours), foods aren’t doused with oil and the char adds great flavour.
Select from large entrees of Chashushuli (veal stew with georgian spiced sauce with paprika, onions and herbs), Chanakhi (tender lamb stew with vegetables, served in a clay pot) Chakhokhbili(stewed chicken with tomatoes and aromatic spices) Chicken Tabaka (marinated cornish hen), along with a wide range of fish and other meats.
To complete the experience, sip on authentic Georgian brandy and Kindzmarauli, a semi-sweet red wine.
Bodokia’s menu showcases impossibly light (not heavy like other Eastern European foods) and moist fare. Unbelievably fresh dishes that will wow you.
Many items that Bodokia makes are unique to Georgian cuisine that Bodokia makes like tkemali, a Georgian ketchup made out of red or green sour plums. And it’s as authentic as you can get to real Georgian fare, thanks to the spices Bodokia brings back when she visits. Using family recipes as a base, she experiments and improves on them, makes them her own.
Bodokia, born in Kutaisi (the legislative capital of Georgia and its second-largest city in the former Soviet republic country), makes everything fresh from scratch in-house, right down to bread, desserts and sauces. She doesn’t even buy mayonnaise.
"When I shop, I pay attention to quality. I always buy high quality meat and rice, and only buy grade A produce."
It’s not just her talent in the kitchen that makes her food so extraordinary. It’s her passion. She doesn’t just put it on a platter and serve it to you.
"I puts my feelings into the food. I think about it, heart and soul. I feel a responsibility," she says. "I have to maintain high level of quality – or better. I take full responsibility for my cooking and my work."
The a la carte restaurant and banquet hall serves up to 150 guests for both lunch and dinner.
Lunch specials such as a fresh soup and cabbage roll combo ($8) are available for take out as well, should you be pressed for time.
And you must save room for dessert. Back in Moscow, Bodokia had a sweets shop, where she made all of her own pastries.
You’re just going to have to make multiple visits.
Georgia Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
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