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