Tired of the same old takeout week after week? Westchester’s first Georgian restaurant is bringing Black Sea flavors like you’ve never had before.
This review was written prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Badageoni Georgian Kitchen remains open for take-out and delivery only.
One of the reasons I love reviewing restaurants is that eating can provide a window into a culture like few other practices. What we eat today, what we ate growing up, the spices we prefer — or are even aware of — are part of the fabric of who we are as surely as our DNA is. Anthony Bourdain understood this, and his use of food as a medium to get to know new people and new places was an integral part of his success. It is also part of what makes Badageoni Georgian Kitchen in Mount Kisco such an enjoyable destination.
Opened last summer by sister and brother Inga Duignan and Giga Jankarashvili, Badageoni is the county’s first — and only — restaurant to offer Georgian cuisine. (The country of approximately four million is located between the Black Sea, Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan.) Dining in the 65-seat bar-restaurant, at one of the wood tables under chandeliers outfitted with Edison light bulbs, you’re likely to overhear guests speaking Georgian, as well as compliments to the staff on their handling of a particular delicacy they have trouble finding elsewhere.
And what delicacies they are.
The beef and pork khinkali, Georgian dumplings, were recommended by a server, and they are a must-order. A ground-pork-and-beef mixture, accented with finely chopped onions, parsley, and cilantro, is placed raw within a doughy shell and then cooked. This process traps the meats’ juices, which makes the first bite especially flavorful, particularly if you eat it with your hands (as is the tradition), so the juice doesn’t escape.
The chashushuli, a slow-cooked beef stew, is made with tomato sauce and herbs. The beef is soft and oh-so-tender and is supported by a thick, dark, creamy base, of which I sopped up as much as I could.
Lobio is another stew to try, made with red kidney beans and served with cornbread and pickled beets, cucumbers and jonjoli, a popular native Georgian sprout. The stew itself is a warm and hearty option, but the stars of this dish are its sides. The tart pickled vegetables put the fermentation projects at most hipster restaurants to shame. The Georgian cornbread is less crumbly than its American counterpart and well worth enjoying with this dish or on its own as a side.
Speaking of bread, the house-baked varieties are certainly among the strengths of the restaurant. The imeruli, a round cheese bread with beans, is similar to a cross between a quesadilla and a white-sauce pizza. The cheese and beans are encased in a thin, flaky crust, and each bite offers a wonderful balance of the three main ingredients.
Despite these triumphs, some dishes miss the mark. The adjaruli, the restaurant’s most Instagram-friendly dish, is a bread bowl filled with gooey melted cheese (adding a sunny-side egg is optional). The taste is akin to most fondues but is too heavy to eat with other food and doesn’t have much depth. Pkhali rolls are a stuffed eggplant-and-pepper specialty topped with pomegranate seeds and filled with a walnut cream sauce. But the eggplant imparts little flavor of its own and the walnut overpowers the other ingredients. Least impressive is the chicken kebab entrée — dry and relatively bland, although partially redeemed by an excellent cucumber salad.
When it comes to drinks, wine list features reasonably priced Georgian vintages. A red Marani Gemieri from eastern Georgia is semi-dry, as described, and pairs nicely with many of the restaurant’s dishes. The cocktail list is more familiar, offering a grab bag of influences, ranging from mojitos to margaritas with a few Georgian cocktails in the mix. For instance, the Tbilisi Fix is made with marani chacha (a Georgian grappa), cherry liqueur, and lemon juice, and the result is so sweet, it tastes like liquid candy. Better and far less sweet is the restaurant’s standard but solid Manhattan.
Desserts range from the familiar — a run-of-the-mill chocolate cake or a delicious ice cream with meringue and caramel — to the more unusual. My favorite is The Glacier, which consists of Georgian yogurt with honey, honeycomb, and pomegranate. The smooth and creamy Georgian yogurt is better than almost any variety I’ve tried, and the golden honey cascading over the dish is an Insta alternative to the adjaruli.
After two visits, I want to return, not just to reorder my favorites (I need to have those dumplings again) but to continue exploring this interesting menu.