Photos by Tappanai Boonbandit
BANGKOK — Try khachapuri the next time you want to taste a new cuisine – and one place to find it is Argo, a Georgian restaurant located a few steps away from BTS Nana.
Argo has been offering expats and locals an introduction into the world of Georgian cuisine since April.
“I think Georgian cuisine is quite unique. Thai people might find it interesting because of the spices,” owner Anna Avramidou said.
Thai tongues new to Georgian cuisine should start off with more tangy dishes before easing into creamy, nut-based ones. Kick off with the khinkhali (70 baht apiece), a beef dumpling with soup inside. Think xiao long bao but larger – grab the peppery top, flip it upside down, take a bite and slurp some soup, before munching it all down.
Next, try the chashushuli (380 baht), a lightly-spiced tomato beef stew with tender, soft beef – a hearty accompaniment to the homemade bread. For something familiar yet simultaneously foreign, try the chakapuli (470 baht), a stew of green cherry plums from Georgia with lamb. The tangy plums will remind Thai tongues of soups made from manao dong (fermented limes).
Of course, you can’t say you’ve tried Georgian food without ordering the national dish: the cheese-filled bread khachapuri. We tried the photogenic acharuli khachapuri (250 baht), a satisfying dougy boat filled with soft, slightly sweet sulguni cheese and topped with an egg yolk. Think a cross between dessert pastry and cheese pizza.
Georgian food, we found, often incorporates walnuts blended with spices. If you’ve fared well so far, try the phali (120 baht), a ball of spinach and beetroot blended with walnuts and khmeli sumeli, a Georgian seven-spice mix smelling strongly of fenugreek. If the creamy nuttiness is palatable, move on to the badrijani nigvzit (130 baht), an eggplant roll with a similar walnut filling, or the satsivi (190 baht) – chicken cooked in walnut sauce. Almost everything is served on wooden trays or charming clay plates.
“I know all the Georgians here [in Bangkok],” Avramidou said, affirming the food’s authenticity. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s like home, same as in Georgia.’”
Avramidou explained that Georgian food differs from Thai food in the spice process: whereas Thai dishes often come with accompanying sauces and dips, Georgian food is usually seasoned during the cooking process. Argo strives to reduce the oil and fat in its cooking though.
Avramidou is Greek-Russian, with a Georgian-born mother. Argo’s menu also includes Greek and Russian dishes, such as moussakas and Olivier salad. Spices used in Argo’s cooking are all imported, as is the bacteria used to make the cheese in khachapuri.
Avramidou also owns the four-year-old Greek restaurant Avra near BTS Phrom Phong, which is slightly pricier and can accomodate larger groups. Although the menus at Argo and Avra are identical, the portions at Argo are smaller and cheaper, perfect for those dipping their toes into a new cuisine.
The restaurant, seating about 40 with both indoor and outdoor seating, is decorated with dark wood, Georgian rugs, and prints of Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani’s work. Once you get tipsy on the wine – the semi-sweet white Tvishi is recommended (270 for a glass) – you might even clap along to the rumbling Georgian choral music.
Argo Georgian and Greek Restaurant is located in Sukhumvit Soi 8, close to BTS Nana. It’s open from 5pm to 11pm every day except Mondays, and plan to open for lunch starting in September.
This review is based on a hosted visit.