Did you know that Georgian cuisine is the next big thing in Russia? Note – I’m not talking about Southern American cuisine, I’m talking about the country that bridges Europe and Asia! On the free walking tours we attended in both St Petersburg and Moscow, there were other travellers asking the guides to recommend a Georgian restaurant for them to visit. Apparently they’d done some reading and found that that Georgian food was the next big thing!
Well we weren’t going to be left out of this new trend, so we did our research and decided to visit Dzhon Dzholi in Moscow. It’s located conveniently close to a metro line, and is also close to the Russian Cosmonautics Museum which made K very happy as he’s a bit of a space geek. Being located a little bit further out from the centre of Moscow also meant that we were the only tourists in the restaurant on the day that we visited, but there were plenty of locals dining there with many office workers ordering the set lunch.
With the set menu written entirely in Cyrillic characters however, I simply didn’t have the energy to decipher it! I resorted to ordering from the main menu, which came conveniently with pictures of each item for non-Russian speakers to refer to. But first some drinks!
K had a Lemonade, and I had an Iced Tea. Unfortunately the lemonade was actually a lime syrup drink which proved to be much too sweet, but my iced tea was very fruity and refreshing which proved to be particularly helpful as some of the dishes we ordered were quite heavy.
K was a bit braver than me and ordered blindly from the set lunch menu rather than relying on pictures. The soup was a lucky choice – a simple Chicken Noodle Soup (for the soul), garnished liberally with fresh dill. This was pretty tasty as far as chicken noodle soups go, but I suspect that there was a bit of help from Maggi Chicken Stock as the soup was a suspiciously bright yellow shade.
The first dish I ordered was the Ajapsandal eggplant, a delicious tomato-based vegetable stew. It was only a small serve, suitable as a starter, but what there was of it really did pack a flavour punch – rich, savoury, smoky, and intense. The eggplant in particular was cooked to perfection – while it seemed firm to the touch, it almost disintegrated as soon as you put it in your mouth, literally melting on the tongue.
I also ordered the Kutabs with lamb, a flatbread stuffed with minced meat not unlike a Turkish gozleme, which makes sense given Georgia’s geographical location relative to Turkey. The flatbread was a little bit oily, but I loved the taste of the savoury spiced lamb mince which was perfectly complimented by the yoghurt dip.
K’s set lunch menu was a Lamb Kebab, served a little bit differently than a lamb kebab in Australia! For one thing, it’s served with a thin piece of dry crispy flatbread which means that you can’t really roll up your kebab in bread – you have to awkwardly try to spear a bit of lamb, a bit of flatbread, a bit of tomato and a bit of onion to have in a single bite. It’s a task easier said than done, especially considering how crisp the flatbread is! It’s a messy meal, but well worth the effort – the lamb is delicious. It’s not as savoury or strong as my lamb kutabs, which makes it much more edible in this larger quantity. The slightly spicy dipping sauce was a delight as well.
To finish our meal, we decided to share some Khinkali, large Georgian dumplings that resemble Shanghainese xiao long bao, but at four times the size! These are very difficult to eat – too large for a single mouthful but as soon as you cut into the dumpling, its soup juices spill out onto the plate. It’s a pity as the filling (three varieties – pork, beef or lamb) is delicious, but it’s let down by the clumsy dumpling wrapping.
I thought our meal at Dzhon Dzholi was a bit hit and miss – I wasn’t a fan of the dumplings, some of the drinks seem a bit average, and oil is used quite liberally which may be off-putting for those who prefer to maintain a cleaner and healthier palate. Yet there were some standout dishes – the stewed vegetables were delicious, and I’d love to go back to try some different fillings in the kutab flatbreads. I think this is the type of restaurant where you have to pick and choose your meal carefully – take note of what locals around you are eating and follow their lead!
Dzhon Dzholi is located at 20 Tverskaya Ulitsa, Moscow.