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Le Georgia: Sweet Georgia

Sweet Georgia

Le Georgia: Velvety warm
Photo: Joseph Yarmush

Meaty home cooking that'll make you miss the Russian grandma you never had

To walk into Le Georgia is to walk into the sitting room of that Russian great aunt you never knew you had. Dark wood panelling, lush red drapes with tassels, paintings of landscapes and sad dogs, and a fake fireplace complete with family photo on the mantel. It’s otherworldly.

But then, Côtes-des-Neiges is a conglomerate of other worlds. Moroccan, Jewish, Japanese restaurants rub fork by finger by chopstick in this über-UN area. Georgian cuisine, with its emphasis on meats and its use of walnuts, pomegranates, garlic and spice, is just another slice of the neighbourhood’s global pie.

The Disney Channel was playing on the corner TV. A pleasant-looking dark-bobbed older woman in an extravagant fur collar drank tea from an elegant cup at a nearby table. Across from her was a squirmy little blonde girl, colouring. We settled into comfy upholstered chairs with arms and pondered the menu. Brochettes, duck leg, sausage and borscht jostled with unfamiliar words with lots of k’s and ch’s.

We were wondering aloud what khatchapouri could be when the little girl approached our table and explained it was a thick crêpe stuffed with cheese and that she orders it every Friday when she comes here after her Russian class. Who could resist such a poppet’s recommendation? This Caucasian version of the grilled cheese sandwich is obviously popular with kiddies. We saw the restaurant owner’s young son tucked at a table, eating a wedge of it and playing chess, no doubt plotting to overtake Gary Kasparov one day.

We ordered the khatchapouri, as well as eggplant appetizers (the cheese-stuffed peppers and cold cut platter will have to wait till our next visit, as will the lauded borscht). I ordered khartcho, a lamb and nut dish; my man ordered offal, then wine. When I hesitated to join in on vino, the hail-fellow-well-met owner paused. "But if you don’t drink, you’ll harm your stomach," he said, wide-eyed.

So a carafe for two was brought to us, along with bread and instructions for the jar of homemade spice spread already on the table. "We eat it with everything but tea," he said of the pungent blend. It reminded me of curry paste, salty, with paprika. Was that cumin and coriander? The owner wouldn’t give away the recipe except to say there were a dozen spices within.

Used sparingly, the spices were a perky accompaniment and enhanced the comforting doughy khatchapouri. Our eggplant rounds were topped with a mash of nuts and garlic. Their naturally bitter taste was offset by a burst of bright flavour provided by pomegranate seeds.

The main dishes arrived on hot oval platters. My khartcho was a mix of lamb, shredded carrots, coriander and walnut, loaded with more garlic than I’ve encountered in any other resto, from Thai to Greek. I swooned over its zestful vigour.

His chopped veal offal was a medley of textures, from soft tripe to toothsome heart. It was hot with barely-cooked garlic and robust with herbs.

We finished with a spongy Ukrainian honey cake and the Georgian tchourtchkhela. I’d recommend the latter, logs of cinnamony raisin paste, stuffed with nuts. Eat them with your hands, lick the tacky residue off your fingers. Sit back to relish the final moments of your meal in this unique family restaurant.

Le Georgia
5112 Decarie Blvd.; 482-1881
Dinner for two, not including tax or tip: $40-$60

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  • by Maria Cecillia Silva - December 9, 2004, 10:20 am

    Well I will just have to sit here and enjoy reading obout this place. This Russian Aunty’s Resturant who must be related to Royalty because the prices are very steep. I thought with the family pictures and the home feeling they would be catering to the family scene. But know you would pay dearly for a meal for a family at this place. No matter how nice the food is can one spend this much money of food and then have to work there bodies out to loose the fat. I bet I could not even afford a salad. It is not even the nicest area for a Resturant of this price. Your on Decarie the Highway, the road to the fast food chains.I think this little restuarnt is lost !

  • by Heath Abram - December 9, 2004, 3:24 pm

    I thought I knew about all the restaurants in this area, but I have to say this one takes me completely by surprise. The decor looks and sounds warm and charming and the food sounds tasty and interesting. It appears to be quite expensive for a “grilled cheese sandwich”, but hey, we all have to splurge once in a while. I love the names of these dishes- they’re so exotic sounding! I’m going to wait for a cold, snowy, Russian-feeling kind of day and head out to Le Georgia.

  • by Shaun King - December 10, 2004, 10:46 am

    Hmmm… could it be…? Food fit for a King…? I guess I should check it out. I haven’t been to this little place, but it sounds rather exquisite. The decor as pictured seems warm and cosy, which would be nice on a cold wintery day (do we actually have those here in Montreal…? LOL). Since I do like food from many parts of the world, and I’m not a fussy eater, I will probably enjoy some of their homeland dishes. I have had Russian borscht, well a Canadian-made version that is, and it was delicious. I’m sure that their’s is even better. So, I will definitely have to check this place out. When we can’t afford to travel to such far away places, we can at least enjoy the homestyle delicacies prepared by friendly immigrants who have left their homeland for a better life in our country.

  • by Steven Doucet - December 10, 2004, 11:57 am

    I have to admit that i have only eating at a russian establishment once, and it was great. This was the russian restaurant “Alexandre” on St.Marc street. It was an interesting experience! The food was very hearty and meat always seemed to be the focal point of all the dish, minus the dessert of course. Out of all the eastern european cuisines, it is up there right behind Romaining cuisine. There are really focus on the basics of food; bringing out the natural flavours by use of argomates. Lots of garlic and root vegatables, which is always nice!!! I am looking forward to trying out this place, it sound very interesting!!!

  • by Lee Feldman - December 10, 2004, 4:00 pm

    Enjoyed as always reading maeve Haldane column on Sweet Georgia.
    Brought back many childhood memories of food that my grandmother and mother cooked since they were from Russia and I was born here. unfortunately, both are gone and the recipes of our favourite foods are with them. They never measured anything, and I was too young to think of writing measurements when they were cooking.

    Your description of the dishes you ate are very tempting and encouraging and now I will make it a point to visit this charming restaurant over the holidays. Thank you for bringing back some great memories.

  • by Zhou Fang - December 10, 2004, 7:40 pm

    Ok that’s it I want Maeve’s job. Why do I always have to read this food section at supper time when I’m deadly hungry.
    Yup this restaurant seems definitely yummy, I have never tried Russian before. Only thing is the price, I will wait for a special occasion.

  • by Ronny Pangia - December 11, 2004, 11:21 am

    Maeve has been so good to me this year that I decided to use her article and give back to others by offering advice to all Hour comment writers on how you can score big on posting comments and getting vote:.

    (1) Choose a section you have a certain love for and you know people will read Food is my hookup; stay away from the stage and book sections

    (2) Have a great title – can you find a title any more fitting than Georgia on my Mind?

    (3) Repeat anything that was mentioned in the article that you liked. Here’s my take: The Cote-Des-Neiges area has so many restuarants to choose from, it’s hard for a Georgian restaurant to stand-out from the rest. I mean you can choose from Moroccan, Jewish, Japanese restaurants, etc.

    Maeve does a great job describing us the interaction between herself and the waiter. The instructions on how to use the jar of homemade spice as well as having the vino are marvelous tips only a food critique would ask and write about.

    (4) Finish off with a killer hook: When Maeve mentions that you should sit back to relish the final moments of your meal in this unique family restaurant, it puts a mental image of Meg Ryan screaming in the restaurant in ecstacy. Pure utter satisfaction!

    Et voilà tout le monde…

  • by Carmela Sicurella - December 11, 2004, 4:48 pm

    I have to get to this restaurant as soon as possible because the way this article describes if feels and looks like a five star restaurant with many hot dishes on the menu. This restaurant would be a really nice place to be in a cold winter day because it feels very cozy. I have tried Russian food many times and it’s always a pleasure. This restaurant defiantly has a home feeling to it and when you walk in you feel like your in your own home with the pictures on the mantle and the fireplace. I will defiantly take a trip down to Le Georgia by the end of the month.

  • by Marco Facchin - December 11, 2004, 8:18 pm

    I just ate at Le Georgia after reading the article in the Hour, i was intriged by the whole decor concept and I just had to see it for myself. When i walked i just felt like home, it just reminded me so much of my grandparents dining room. Other than the decor being interesting, could do without the television im getting fed up of seeing screens everywhere i go, the food was close to home cooking and at a reasonable price. All in all go check it out, dont think it will become one of my favorites but i would recommend it.

  • by Pedro Eggers - December 17, 2004, 4:52 pm

    The location is less than appealing and for anyone on a tight budget this seems a tad high but damn if this writ-up don’t make you want to rush right over there.
    Georgian cuisine is by its very design very rich and seductive to anyone with a healthy appetite. Please understand, when I say healthy appetite I mean this in the classic sense and not the vegan and yoga one that would have you nibbling on tofu and sunflower seeds while your doctor looks on proudly at your bland lifestyle.
    I am talking about food here. Actual beefy food with all the rich sauces and sinful side platters.
    Again, other than the location and the price it sound great.

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