Did anyone notice that influencers stopped posting cheese boat pictures, and moved on to Birria? It feels like we are in the midst of a Georgian food inflection point. Much has changed since Tone Cafe introduced south Brooklynites to Georgian bread and Khachapuri a couple of decades ago. You can now find decent Georgian in Manhattan and Queens, but south Brooklyn is where they keep multiplying in an increased pace. Its not just Brighton Beach anymore, but Bensonhurst and now Bay Ridge joining the party.
Chveni Cafe at the north edge of Bensonhurst is probably the closest we’ll get to my old high school (FDR) on this blog. I almost felt the bullying, mainly the ones I initiated, while munching on Khachapuri Chveneburi, a new discovery for me. Its filled with that wonderful Georgian cheese and just enough green onions to satisfy both onion lovers (me), and haters (Mrs Z). Its the one house specialty you wont find anywhere else.
Chveni is primarily if not entirely female owned and operated. A multi talented babushka was running the kitchen during our lunch. And the owners are two best friends who decided to open their first restaurant in a curious but manageable location. Its an area where nothing interesting ever opens, and the only reason to go there until now was for one of those classic Italian pork stores.
Its a full menu in typical Georgian fashion, but you get a sense that the Chvenis can do no wrong. An outstanding rolled eggplant stuffed with a walnut spread. Kupati, huge, juicy, grainy sausages come sizzling, and accompanied with a sauce that compliments them beautifully. Another delicious sizzler is the Shkmeruli, a spatchcocked chicken in milky garlic sauce. Its so crispy and garlicky that you fully forgive the borderline too salty.
Another hit was a cornbread that tasted like a sick Arepa. There’s also a cornbread with cheese. The lone dessert, a huge, fluffy, airy, fresh Napoleon is the best I ever had. But it wasnt until we had the Kharcho soup we took home for next day’s dinner, when we heard the Georgian chant. Or is it Gregorian? It doesnt matter. What matters is that instead of the big chunks of beef we are accustomed to, we got smaller pieces of goodness in a well balanced broth.
Needless to say, this is the start of a beautiful relationship. I dont think I ever had a Georgian meal where everything clicked as such. The room is attractive. The owner (we met one of them) is reserved but friendly, and most importantly knows what Georgian food supposed to look and taste like. Trying the rest of the menu will be a tough task since we’ll be tempted to mimic the last experience. Its that good. Go!
6216 18th Ave, Brooklyn (Bensonhurst)
Recommended Dishes: Khachapuri Chveneburi, Kharcho, eggplant with walnuts, Kupati, Chicken Shkmeruli, cornbread, Napoleon