eorgia for Russia is what Spain is for Britain. Sultry machos, fun-in-the-sun vacations, wine and, very importantly, great food. When Russian food is spiced to the brim, it's mostly about black pepper and parsley. It is no wonder that Georgian exuberance of basil, marjoram, pomegranate sauces and walnut dips completely takes our fancy.
Georgian food is hardly known outside the former USSR. I put it down to the faulty branding. For Westerners, the phrase "Georgian food" conjures the images of grits, pork chops and Hoppin' John that have naught to do with the multi-millenia culinary sophistication of the Trans-Caucasian nation. Despite the rumours of Georgia being renamed Barackia with Obama in power now, I believe it should be better off with something more catchy and lasting. I suggest Kartvelia.
As you might have already surmised, Olga knows everything and everyone worth note in London. Last night after a RBCC networking event, she took her charming friend Tanya and yours truly to a Georgian (or Kartvelian, if you please) restaurant she had been to a couple of times. The Mimino is named after a 70s Georgian cult movie that every Russian worth his salt knows.
It was our reconnaissance visit, so we shared a starters platter for two with Olga, while Tanya, who was fasting for the Lent, just nibbled on a bowl of delightfully herby bean soup Lobio.
Our platter was nothing short of an epiphany. Last time I had Georgian food was back in 2002, in a St. Petersburg restaurant frequented by Vladimir Putin. While the cooking was consistently good, the emphasis there was on presentation and interior. The Mimino, however bets it all on food and does so with distinction.
Our preview of Mimino's utterly munchable goodness consisted of:
- Badrijani - grilled aubergine rolls with walnut sauce;
- Espanakhi - a herby spinach ball, with a strong grassy note of fresh spinach, a sharp contrast with the bland overcooked spinach your get more often than not;
- Adjapsandali - a ratatouille-esque stew with the accent on the aubergines;
- Pkhali - a leek-and-walnuts ball with a heady fragrance of aromatic herbs;
- Lobio - the dry version of Tanya's bean soup, with walnuts, fresh coriander and dried herbs;
- Imeruli khachapuri - fragrant thin-dough flat-bread stuffed with piping hot cheese,
Pro's: Lean and herby, little known.
Con's: Little known, unfortunate branding.
In a nutshell: Toe-twirlingly delicious, exotic food like you've never tried before.
P.S. For the British a "Georgian restaurant" must be some kind of eatery in a John Nash mansion. Go for Kartvelian, really!