I enjoy trying new restaurants and new cuisines, but in this city I’d rather not blindly pick a place and hope for the best. I’d much rather have some sort of guidance on the subject. James of The Eaten Path knows a bit about the former Soviet republics and their cuisine. Apparently attempting to try a restaurant from each, he took an assortment of bloggers to Ukus in Astoria a few months back, and this month found Pirosmani, a Georgian restaurant — rare in New York — to try earlier this month. It’s not close, however; Pirosmani is located in Sheepshead Bay or Gravesend, depending on who you ask. My trip from Manhattan via subway took about 40 minutes, plus a nine-block walk to the restaurant.
Yvo says: …but not a bad drive from Forest Hills at all! Thankfully, I’m familiar with the area (Roll-n-Roaster is nearby, sort of), and it’s a few turns off the highway.
For those whose language skills reach no farther than Western Europe, it’s best located by the address on the main awning, or looking a bit to the left where it’s much more obvious. I chose the former.
Yvo says: Look, it’s Dean of Nommables and me in the picture… moving.
After most of the group arrived, James went across the street to purchase a couple of Georgian wines, on the advice of the waiter. The wines were selected for the label wording, as no one — in this group, anyhow — really knows Georgian wine. In this case the “dry white wine” was anything but: sickly-sweet, musty, just generally not pleasant. If this is considered dry, I’m afraid of the sweet wines. The red wine, well… Manischevitz seems world-class in comparison. On the plus side, now we know!
We ordered pretty much half the menu to get a wide assortment of dishes. We started with pickled pigs’ feet, but they were, as usual for me, too much work for too little payoff.
I’m also not a fan of the texture, as they were primarily cartilage and the overall impression was, well, vinegary rubber.
Yvo says: I never had pigs’ feet before, actually. I thought the chewiness was interesting but cartilage isn’t my favorite texture (depends on how it’s prepped, really), and the vinegar, while I love pickled items, well, white vinegar reminds me of bad feet odor. Pickled feet smelling like bad feet odor sends all sorts of weird thoughts to my brain… maybe a different prep?
The next appetizer, eggplant stuffed with walnuts, worked far, far better for me.
Excellent nutty, meaty (for nuts) goodness, served cold. The eggplant was sliced thin enough that there were no textural issues there, and I devoured my share.
Yvo says: I love, love, loved this dish. Need to figure out how to make it. The eggplant was just a vehicle for this amazing walnut creaminess… I mean, eggplant contributed its fair share of creaminess, but I wonder how this would work if the rolls were fried gently after, to offer a crisp exterior countered with a creamy center… Ok ok I’m sorry, I’m messing with the dish’s essence, but I really enjoyed this and wanted another plate for myself.
Table bread — soft inside with a crisp exterior, warm, so flavorful as bread goes, great contrast in textures. Also a funny shape, which always wins.
Yvo says: The bread was excellent. I wonder if the breads I see in my heavily Bukharian neighborhood are similar in the slightest? Need to go try more…
Cheese bread number one was an exercise in oily cheesy goodness. Piping hot initially, but served to melt the pizzalike cheese over the pizzalike crust.
Gooooood. As with most everything on the menu from this point forward, butter was a main ingredient, and the sweetness permeated every bite.
Yvo says: I really enjoyed this, though I was surprised that it tasted so sweet.
Cheese bread number two — yes, that is a stick of butter floating alongside an egg yolk surrounded by melted cheese. The idea is to mix it all together with a table implement, then as it cools slightly, cut into the crust…
…letting a little of the liquid concoction spill out as it’s sopped up by the bread. A mess to be sure, but so artery-hardeningly good.
Yvo says: This was a little harder to share, but delicious and wonderful. Yet another thing you wonder “Can I do that at home?”
Cheese bread number three was more a calzone, crust all around concealing the same cheese on the interior.
Nice surface char, but at this point, I was cheesed out. Still, the crust was crunchy enough to provide an interesting counterpoint to all the oozing cheese mixture.
Yvo says: I’m still up in the air whether I liked this one or the first one better. They were similar, but I think I liked the first better.
Time for… fried potatoes and mushrooms, of course. Thin slices of potatoes, fried crisp on the outside with a thin sliver of soft, hot potato inside. The mushrooms, hen-of-the-woods, were mushrooms to me — I’m not the person to speak to about mushroom love.
Yvo says: omg! We talked about this dish at length before ordering it, as it was quite “expensive” at $18 a plate (which was high for the menu). We wondered if it was a trough of potatoes, or something… the description simply said “fried potatoes with mushrooms”. But when it came, our eyes grew large and I’m positive I drooled. The hen-of-the-woods mushrooms aren’t cheap, honestly, but also, the care that went into slicing the potatoes super thin, frying them properly, and then frying the mushrooms … which gave them such an interesting texture! So good. I was ready to buy an order to take home.
This is what food bloggers do on Food Blogger Dinner night. I have plenty of failed shots of our food by not having the determination of other such people.
Yvo says: Let it be known that I did keep saying, “Get up! Take a picture! What are you doing?” to the Beer Boor, who took it good naturedly, and have realized I need to sit in the middle at such long tables, haha.
The dish attracting so much attention was a sort of pot pie, presented thusly.
Until it’s opened that is, exposing the lamb stew with vegetables inside, with a tomato centered for all to enjoy and photograph.
This wasn’t as spicy as I expected; the potatoes gave it some body and mouthfeel, and while I wouldn’t refuse it my next trip, it wasn’t something that got me excited, past the initial presentation.
Yvo says: I actually was not a fan of this dish at all; it had this taste that turns me off a lot of lamb dishes. It isn’t gaminess, per se, because I’ve had plenty of lamb that I love and doesn’t have it – it’s probably a certain spice or herb that is used in that region of the world that turns my tongue and I can’t find an appreciation for it. Ah well – the presentation was quite wonderful.
The fried chicken in garlic sauce was simmering in the pan delivered to the table, buttery goodness wafting out. I scored a thigh covered in garlicky, oily sauce. It’s more baked and seasoned than fried, but that hardly mattered since every mouthful was an explosion of garlic.
Yvo says: omg, another wonderful dish. Cooked in butter? I was really thrilled with the crisp skin, and the tender, tender thigh meat with its garlic infusion. Ahhh… total love.
The final dish I sampled, the lamb kebab, was perfect in its simplicity. Grilled (grill marks and all), a little gamey, which I prefer with my lamb, with decent hand-cut fries on the side and a fiery-hot red roasted pepper to tempt the foolish or heat-seekers (or both). Probably my favorite dish.
Yvo says: I actually wasn’t a fan of this dish. I munched on the fries because they were there, but the lamb was a bit too cooked for me, leaving it chewy and dry. Ah well.
There’s no dessert menu, but usually some type of sweet pastry or other sweet dish would be presented at the end of the meal as a sort of thank you; however, the restaurant had already run out by the time we were finished. I’d like to return in a smaller group just to see what we missed.
Going with a large group was easily accommodated at Pirosmani on this Wednesday. Additionally, with a big group you can try way more dishes, which is always a plus in a restaurant where there’s a bit of a language barrier and a lot of people willing to try anything but not knowing what will please them the most. We were eventually a group of 11, and I doubt a single person left hungry. For all those dishes, our total bill with tax and tip came to a mere $15 apiece (plus wine costs for those who braved it). I recommend this restaurant for some dishes, but be prepared for the dairy onslaught in some of the tastiest ones!