food, Georgia, tbilisi

Searching for Barbarestan

Georgia’s language is melodious, except when it’s yelled by an enraged taxi driver.   With 30 minutes to reach famous and nearby Barbarestan restaurant in Tbilisi, we called a cab.    Unsurprisingly, the driver spoke no English.   Unexpectedly, though, he didn’t recognize the name or address of the restaurant, even when presented to him in Georgian.  

After he called to get directions, we rocketed around Tbilisi, with our driver sarcastically and repeatedly verbally abusing the intended street address.   Other cars and prevailing traffic patterns were dangerously ignored in our thwarted quest for dinner, and centuries-old houses and astonishing modernist buildings blurred past us.  In another city, a breakneck triple-trip around town might well have been intentional, resulting in an astronomical fare.    But when we finally arrived at Barbarestan after our adventurous and unmetered 40-minute city tour,  the cost was only $2.50.  

The tiny family-owned restaurant derives both it’s name and it’s menu from a beloved 150-year-old cookbook written by Barbare Jorjadze,  a Georgian princess, writer, and fierce women’s right’s advocate.   Her cookbook is credited for keeping Georgian cooking alive through 70 years of Soviet occupation—which apparently involved (among other things) some bland dining.   

As was the case with all our meals in Georgia,  blandness was the farthest thing from our minds or mouths while we were eating.    As a part of the ancient network of trade routes known as the Silk Road, the best of many cuisines found their way to Georgia,  merged,  and were reinvented.   We had a magical evening sampling previously unknown dishes flavored with ghee and marigolds, and drinking brilliant orange wine.   (And when we took a taxi back to our apartment, it only took 7 minutes.)