Pastorali - Yet Another One But With Elarji

In terms of design, Georgian restaurants have basically chosen to follow one of two distinct trends in recent years: one is a tavern-style design with stone, cement and wood elements, pebbled footpaths and lawns (for example, Old House and Faetoni, among many others); another is the so-called “Tbilisi mixture” with mottled tablecloths, mismatched chairs, massive cupboards, heavy tables, red brick walls, decorative lampshades and old, creaking floors. The latter trend was pioneered by Gabriadze’s restaurant near the Anchiskhati church and replicated by Purpur, Black Lion and many others. Such restaurants increase in number, though not in innovation. Pastorali is cut from the same cloth – it offers nothing new.
   Pastorali tries hard to approximate true Mengrelian food. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes – not. For example, a traditional Mengrelian Khul-Salad (GEL 5) of Georgian-type kohlrabi with walnuts and adjika paste was good, but a Vegetable Salad (GEL 6.90) did not even look fresh. The Tkemali gravy (GEL 2.50) also should have been much fresher. Gebzhalia (GEL 5.90) – slices of suluguni cheese in mint sauce – was nowhere near as soft as it should have been. Rather than juicy when cut, this suluguni was dry and not improved by pouring mint sauce over it.
   I was surprised to be served Soup-Kharcho (GEL 7.40) made from pork. I had hoped to enjoy Elarji (GEL 4.90) more and the cheesy cornmeal pudding seemed OK at first – until I found hair in it…. That almost ruined our appetite, but we contained our emotions and reserved judgment. 
   We were quite pleased with the Kharcho (GEL 7.90) of veal. This true, classical dish was very delicious and could even be boldly evaluated as perfect – how true Kharcho should taste. Roasted Chicken (GEL 16.90) served on a grape leaf was smeared with Adjika paste and rather spicy for our taste. Although Veal Shashlyk (GEL 13.90) needed some salt, it was really tasty and well prepared. Abkhazura (GEL 6.90) does not deserve a good word – it tasted like an ordinary and overly dry kebab.
   Now about the wine: Both unbottled red and white wine were terrible. We had selected Rkatsiteli (GEL 29.90) from Khokhbis Cremlebi (Pheasant’s Tears) winery, which, unfortunately, tasted of cork and upset us very much because we had such limited choice. We then sipped two types of Saperavi – one of Khokhbis Cremlebi (GEL 9.90 a glass) and another of Vinoterra winery (GEL 6.90 a glass). The former was somewhat better that the latter, which seemed a bit rough.
   Perhaps the best thing about Pastorali is the wide variety of Chacha (Georgian vodka). As for everything else, we can only hope that Pastorali will eventually improve.   
This article first appeared in Tabula Georgian Issue # 103, published 4 June 2012.


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