Dishes filled with a babushka’s loveBottom Highlights, Eat This! Thursday, March 5th, 2015
I invited my good friend Kittylips to join me for dinner one recent Saturday night. “Sure,” he said. “What’s the cuisine?”
“Russian,” I replied.
“I’m in no hurry,” he replied.
Pomegranate restaurant in University Heights serves authentic Georgian and Russian dishes. The walls of the high ceilinged dining rooms are covered with graffiti and an eclectic mix of Russian pop culture posters, sentimental and pastoral paintings of dachas and military memorabilia. A cluster of wooden spoons hang in one corner while tea sets perch on shelves. In the dimly lit room, I jotted my notes by candlelight.
The great thing about having a friend join me for dinner is that I get to sample a larger variety of menu selections. Dimitri 1 was surprised when we ordered two appetizers and three entrées. “You’ll have leftovers,” he said as he filled a frosty mug with a Slovakia pilsner. The brew is medium bodied and smoky with malty caramel undertones.
Kittylips ordered the savory crepes for a starter and I ordered the borscht. The delicate crepe is filled with succulent chicken and a satiny sauce of dill, grated onions and sour cream. The deep burgundy borscht begins with a thick stock, rich and beefy, resplendent with fresh beets and celery. Minced parsley and a dollop of sour cream complete the presentation.
We shared the Golubtsi, or cabbage rolls. The large tender leaves are stuffed with a smooth blend of ground beef, pork, bread crumbs and egg, then simmered in a robust sauce of tomatoes, carrots and peppers, and served with rice. Our next entrée was the Tabaka. The large Cornish game hen is split, flattened, marinated in a sweet pomegranate sauce and then fried to a crispy perfection. The entrée is served on a plate edged with dancing blue flames – a dramatic presentation. The final entrée, Chakapuli, is a luscious lamb shank served in a bowl filled with a broth of tarragon, wine and plums. The licorice-y sweetness complimented the gaminess of the lamb nicely. Two types of bread with herbed butter are served with the meal; a dense rye with a cake-like texture, and a white bread with a good crust and light crumb.
Dimitri 2 tempted us with desserts such as Babushka’s surprise which is a baked apple filled with walnuts, fruit and honey, a traditional Russian honey torte or Toad Sweat ice cream which packs a powerful dose of peppery heat. But we simply couldn’t eat another bite and chose a pot of Turkish coffee instead. The coffee is described as “black as night, hot as love, sweet as sin and powerful as damnation.” The heavily caffeinated beverage is served in a small copper pot with a long wooden handle. “Let it settle for two or three minutes before sipping or you’ll get a mouthful of grit,” Dimitri 2 instructed. I asked if the spice I detected was cinnamon. “No, not cinnamon,” he replied. “It’s cardamon.” Sipping from the demitasse was the perfect finish to a wonderful meal.
Each dish, prepared from recipes handed down through generations, is stick-to-your-ribs delicious and filled with a babushka’s love. But there are no grandmothers in the kitchen “Too hot,” Dimitri 2 assured me. Dimitri 1 was correct, but the only leftovers I had was a large bone for my dog.
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