Georgia, a country few people know much about and even fewer could (easily) locate on a map. A country that (unfortunately) has the claim of being the birthplace of a certain horrific dictator (Joseph Stalin) and one that has for decades struggled with its identity. Bordered by countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, is it European? Or Asian? And then there’s the food. It’s one of most underrated cuisines in the world and also one of the best, in my humble opinion.
If you remember, a while back I posted My Restaurant Bucket List (to access it, click here). One of the restaurants on it was Oda House, an authentic Georgian eatery in New York City. By this time, I had already made the country’s signature dish, khachapuri, a type of cheese bread (click here to make it yourself). And I had become (mildly) obsessed with the idea of one day visiting the country, spurred in part by its stunning Orthodox churches and medieval maze-like streets.
When it came time to plan my trip to New York earlier this month, I knew that eating at Oda House would definitely be on the itinerary. While there are actually several Georgian restaurants located in New York City (no surprise there), I settled on Oda House, which frankly had the best reviews. Well that, and I wasn’t about to trek out to Brooklyn when there was a highly rated one only a 20 minute walk from our hotel.
Located in Alphabet City (down in the East Village, well known thanks to the musical Rent, although don’t worry, the sketch factor has been long removed), it’s a small and intimate spot. I wasn’t sure if it would be busy or not as it was a holiday weekend but I made reservations to err on the side of caution. I made them for 6:45PM as we had done our food tour earlier in the day and were still a bit stuffed. The restaurant was pretty dead save for a couple of other tables occupied when we got there but by the time we left most of the tables were full.
The menu is very extensive and it was hard to choose but two factors played into what we (I) ordered. One, I just had to try one of several types of khachapuri, and two, there was a lot of food on our food tour and since I had no fridge to keep leftovers, I didn’t want to over-order and waste food. So we ended up splitting three items and it was a terrific way to go.
But first, I had a glass of wine, a semi-sweet white (I unfortunately didn’t write down what it was). Most glasses were between $8 and $12, although a few were $14 and $17. I’m not really a wine drinker but when in Rome, or Tbilisi………
For our khachapuri, I went with the Adjaruli ($16) which consists of homemade imeruli and sulguni cheese baked in yeast dough and served with a poached organic egg. It smelled and looked delicious although I was a little surprised when the waitress came over and asked us if we wanted her to “cook” the egg (yes, the egg was uncooked at that point). I was a trifle worried about the uncooked egg part but I needn’t have as the inside filling was PIPING HOT. And I must say, is there anything possibly better than hot bread and melted, gooey cheese?
I also ordered us the Khinkali, a type of Georgian dumpling. I had also made these before but mine weren’t remotely as spectacularly crafted as they were at Oda House. You had your choice of filling (lamb, pork, or vegetarian). I opted for lamb just because it seemed so “Ural Mountains.” The waitress advised us to put them right into our mouths as they had a soup-like filling. Well, as you can see from the picture below, they’re rather huge and obviously they would not fit into my mouth with just one bite. I ended up cutting into them and yes, it resulted in a liquid assault on the plate. In short, you can’t go wrong with dumplings.
And then to offset the very rich khachapuri and still have something nutritious, we ordered the Georgian Salad (the one that didn’t come with walnuts). It was a simple salad comprising tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and fresh basil with an olive oil dressing.
Now that I’ve had the real deal Georgian foods I myself had made before, I would love to return to Oda House again and sample oh, so much more. The party next to us ordered something that came in a clay pot and smelled divine. My Georgian cuisine primer is definitely not over and I look forward to expanding it in the future.
As I mentioned before, my recent trip to New York was all about trying new things, and dining at Oda House didn’t disappoint. It’s a wonderful little restaurant serving up a delicious cuisine and one that will afford you a unique and memorable time. Support small and immigrant owned businesses!
76 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009
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