Restaurant Preview: Badageoni Georgian Kitchen
Based on its name, you might expect to find fried chicken, grits, pecan pie, and peach cobbler on the menu of the new restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Hito Japanese in Mount Kisco. The southern U.S. state, a member of the original 13 colonies, has a rich culinary tradition that includes the aforementioned food and more.
But, alas, that’s the wrong Georgia.
Nestled between the Black Sea, Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan in Western Asia is the other Georgia, a country of not quite four million (America’s namesake has approximately 10 million, BTW) that is the basis of the cuisine at Badageoni.
“When you come from a small country,” says co-owner Inga Duignan, “you want to expose it to the world.”
Duignan and her brother Giga Jankarashvili opened the 65-seat restaurant in early July; the siblings grew up in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, where their family owned a number of restaurants.
Georgia’s location, situated along ancient trade routes for millennia, has had a wonderful effect on the cuisine, which marries Eastern and Western culinary traditions to singular results, with influences from Greece, Mongolia, Persia, Turkey, and Arabia.
“Take any Georgian restaurant, anywhere in the world, and it usually is successful because it is such a different cuisine than any other,” explains Duignan.
Chef Nino Abelashvili, also a Georgian native, who formerly taught at a culinary academy in Tbilisi, offers a menu of house-baked breads (khachapuri), including the “boat-shaped” adjaruli, stuffed with mozzarella-like sulguni cheese and egg; charcoal-fired meats; dumplings in a creamy yogurt sauce, presented in a puffed-bread-covered crock (khinkali); lamb slow-cooked with tarragon, scallions, herbs, and white wine (chakapuli); and slow-roasted Cornish hen in a garlic-cream sauce (shkmeruli).
Georgia is a deeply religious country, where long periods of fasting (no meat or dairy) are connected to certain holidays. As a result, the cuisine is vegan-friendly, serving up such options as walnut-paste-stuffed eggplant, zucchini, and peppers (phkali rolls), and red kidney beans simmered with garlic and coriander (lobio), served with marinated vegetables.
It should come as no surprise that the restaurant is named after an ancient pagan goddess of wine, as Georgia has deep roots in winemaking (the earliest evidence of the process, dating back some 8,000 years, was discovered 20 miles south of Tbilisi in 2017). Saperavi is the most famous Georgian varietal, and a glass of the smoothly textured, dry red Batono is an excellent choice for a newbie.
“Georgians are always around food and drink,” explains Duignan. “It is a culture where everything revolves around it.”
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