Genially Georgian at ‘GENATSVALE’ in Moscow
If you order a chicken dish in Moscow, it is likely to be chicken ‘tabaka’ served with a pungent sour plum sauce -‘satsivi’ because Georgian cuisine is well integrated into local culture from Soviet times. The Imperial Tsars’ and Stalin’s wine cellars were stocked from Georgia.
East meets West
The astonishing similarity between Georgian and Chinese Shanghai meat dumplings set me on a quest to discover the links between those two countries.
Georgia lies on the ancient trade routes between China and the Mediterranean. The source of its wealth in fiscal and cultural terms was by having one foot in the East of the Silk Road and the other in the West on the busy shipping lanes of the Black Sea. I could not visit Georgia but as the next best thing, I am happy to share a most congenial ‘Grazing’ experience at a Georgian culinary experience in Moscow – ‘Genatsvale Restaurant’.
Genatsvale Restaurant – Ostozhenka Street, Moscow
Ostozhenka (Остоженка) Street is situated in the central district of Moscow and runs between Metro stations “Kropotkinskaya’ (Кропо́ткинская) and ‘Park Kultury’ (Парк Культу́ры) on the Sokolnicheskaya Line (Соко́льническая ли́ния).
Historically, it is one of the best streets in Moscow and also known as ‘The Golden Mile’. Much refurbishment and construction has changed the area in the last two decades since Russia became a capitalist state again.
The average price of residential space on Ostozhenka in 2013 was $29,000 per square meter, which is more expensive than New York’s Fifth Avenue ($28,000) or Avenue Montaigne in Paris ($26,000). By the way, Pollock’s Path in Hong Kong was ranked the world’s priciest residential street ($120,000 per square meter). Kensington Gardens in London and Princess Grace Avenue in Monaco came in at second and third place, respectively.
You can find two of Moscow’s best Georgian restaurants on Ostozhenka Street.
‘Genatsvale Restaurant’ at No. 12, is recognisable by its gaudy exterior and the ever-present Georgian-garbed doorman. Rumour has it that local food snobs prefer ‘Tiflis Courtyard’ at No. 32 but we were tourists and opted for the ‘full show’.
Be careful; there are many “Georgian” restaurants called “Genatsvale” in Moscow as it is a common restaurant name meaning ‘Comrade’ or ‘Friend’. Do NOT confuse this original establishment with the latest ‘Genatsvale’ restaurant in New Arbat Avenue, Moscow.
Said to be Catherine Deneuve’s favorite Georgian restaurant. There are two sister-restaurants side by side, with Genatsvale VIP being more expensive. The term ‘VIP’ really means exactly that in Russia and VIP signs abound at casinos and nightclubs. Hollywood star, Will Smith was spotted here and so was Colin Powell.
Famous clients’ photos line the entrance walls but they did not take my photo.
Neither going in nor exiting the restaurant……. 🙂
You expect me to drink water when Georgia invented wine?
A most unique taste of iron, calcium and acid. Now, this was indubitably a ‘mineral water’. See the Georgian entwining alphabet on the lower part of the label?
It is said that Georgian writing resembles the entwining grapevines from the “cradle of viniculture”.
Saperavi 2001, Tamada range (Georgian Wine & Spirits Co.)
This semi-dry red is not the “Export” variety and tends towards the tobacco or spice style and was well-balanced; very gluggable indeed!
Grape: Saperavi 100%
Region: Kakheti, East Georgia
Colour: Deep purple when young and probably would develop a burgundy tone after 5 years.
Nose: Blackberry and blackcurrant with a hint of tobacco and oak.
Palate: Ripe berry flavours with soft tannins. The fruit flavours give the impression of sweetness although it is a dry wine.
I could not recognise any spoken Georgian except ‘ghvino’ (wine), whose pronunciation was spread to the rest of the known world by the Greeks, I guess.
Vegetable dish “pkhali” made of finely chopped beet leaves or spinach mixed with walnut paste, pomegranate grains and various spices. “Lobio” (kidney bean sauce) has as many recipes as there are grandmothers. Pickled aubergines and green tomatoes which are filled with the walnut paste seasoned with vinegar, pomegranate grains and aromatic herbs.
Bread, dips and sauces.
Georgian cuisine uses familiar products but also more of their heritage obligatory ingredients such as walnut, aromatic herbs, garlic, vinegar, red pepper, pomegranate grains, and barberries to produce a special taste and aroma.
Stuffed mushrooms and a cheesy-omelette-pizza affair roasted in butter, which I think is called “sulguni”.
Or was it a “khachapuri”, which is a golden-brown thin pie filled with mildly salted cheese? Either way, it was delicious in a rustic fashion.
Khinkali: a sort of strongly peppered mutton dumpling, is a favourite dish with the mountain dwellers of Georgia.
Mwvadi (shashlik kebab) is very popular in Georgia. Depending on the season, it is made of pork or mutton or aubergines stuffed with the animal’s tail-fat and tomatoes. We had both mutton and pork varieties that evening….no fat-of-tail !
We never got to try “chizhi-pizhi” (liver and spleen roasted in butter and whipped eggs) or “khashi” – a broth of beef entrails (legs, stomach, udder, pieces of head and bones) seasoned with garlic. Somehow, I was a little glad for that……
Roasted small sausages “kupati” stuffed with finely chopped pork, beef and mutton mixed with red pepper and barberries, sounds a little more appetising.
Luxury Side Note
My Japanese colleagues could not get enough of this, so our host made sure we had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Remember, this is now much rarer since the global embargo for sturgeon protection.
Georgian Music & Dance:
It ain’t over until the Fat Tamada sings!
Apparently this percussionist and accordionist are very famous in Russia / Georgia.
Painting on stone wall evokes a window looking out on the Caucasus mountains.
Much reciting of poetry follows…..
The lady is not a professional — she’s a customer caught up in the fun.
Georgians are famous for their musical traditions. Folk-secular music, with polyphonic music developed side-by-side with Church music. It is traditional for Georgian songs to be sung in three-part harmony and some regions get creative with a fourth voice as well.
There are songs linked with celebration, work songs, traveling songs, lullabies, wedding songs, dance songs, and table songs. Georgian dance embodies aristocratic restraint and steadiness. The man is a ‘knight’ and the lady is “as delicate and gracious as a fairy”.
Our dessert came in with a musical light show.
Dessert: Filo pastry, cream and fruit affair; creamy ‘strudel’ is the best I can describe it.
Georgian brandy rounds off the meal but I have yet to tell of the lengthy ‘toasts’ !
The Georgian dining table is conducted in a wise manner, in accordance with ancient ritual. The head of the table “tamada” is elected by the host. The tamada must be a man of humour and able to improvise and philosophise. I suddenly realised why the Georgian Wine & Spirits Co named one of their ranges of wines after the “Tamada”.
If there are many guests, the tamada can appoint assistants called “tolumbashi”. The tamada’s toasts follow one another in a strict order that the guest is obliged to listen and appreciate without interruption. One admires the beauty, style and all-encompassing purport of ideas. The tamada’s assistants and guests may only add something to the toast or develop primary threads, with the tamada’s permission. This ritual maintains discipline at the table. The feast process is accompanied by jokes, dance competitions, table songs, music, quotations and aphorisms from the works of poets and writers.
Remember I said “toasts”? Well, that multiplicity really leads to NOT ACTUALLY remembering much of the dinner the next day!
You have to let yourself relax and accept the rituals and cheesy glitz. It’s a full show and not just a meal.
I would say that this well established dining-musical experience is a must-do in Moscow if one cannot get to Georgia: A 2-thumbs up!
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).