A Drop of Chacha With Your Khachapuri? Israel's Georgian Food Scene Flourishes

A new place in Jaffa – Tash & Tasha – joins the recent wave of Georgian restaurants popping up around the country, offering fun, tasty and inexpensive food.

Acharuli khachapuri, a boat-shaped pastry filled with cheese and topped with a fried egg.
Anatoly Michaello

It seems that 2016 is shaping up as a good year for both Indian and Georgian cuisine. The popularity of Indian food has been surging here, as it is worldwide, with three new Indian restaurants opening, one after the other. And, after a long drought, Georgian eateries have been sprouting up all over the place. Veteran establishments like Deda in Givatayim have suddenly been opening new branches; Shota, at Kibbutz Shomrat in the Galilee, is expanding; and more restaurants in this genre are already planned. In the Krayot, near Haifa, for example, one can’t help but notice the growing number of places selling khachapuri and khinkali.

The trend continues with the recent launch of Tash & Tasha in Jaffa, on the former site of Sola. Sola was an Italian restaurant that took itself seriously. It was set in an old, dimly lit stone building and served a buttoned-up style of European food. Despite the many compliments it received from restaurant critics, it didn’t last very long. Just a few months after Sola’s closing, the space looks nothing like it did before. The stone building is the same, but it’s as though someone has suddenly turned on the lights, turned up the volume and injected a whole new, easygoing spirit into the place.

Mickey Mirel is already known as the young and funky member of the trio that opened the Georgian restaurant Supra on Rothschild Boulevard. He’s the one responsible for the folklore, lively music, and the live music shows on Sundays. Now, after much thought and planning, he and his wife Yifat have opened Tash & Tasha, the Georgian resto-bar in the narrow streets of the Jaffa flea market.

Khinkali, Georgian dumplings.
Anatoly Michaello

A sure, precise hand

What sets Tash & Tasha apart from all the other places that have opened lately? True to its promises, we found it very accessible pricewise, and that alone was enough to whet our appetite. The menu features a coarsely chopped Georgian salad (14 or 28 shekels), a selection of Georgian appetizers (32 shekels) that included rolled eggplant filled with nut and pomegranate paste, a spinach and nut dip on Georgian corn bread, and a beet, carrot and cilantro salad. There was also lobio, a seasoned paste made from red and white beans, which you might call the Georgian hummus (26 shekels).

These small dishes were prepared with a sure, precise hand, and a peek into the kitchen revealed two Georgian women busy kneading fresh dough. The savory pastries on offer included acharuli khachapuri, a large boat-shaped pastry filled with cheese and topped with a sunny-side-up egg (48 shekels); a round, cheese-filled bread called imeruli khachapuri (42 shekels) and a vegan imeruli filled with red beans or leek and spinach (42 shekels).

A variety of main dishes at Tash & Tasha include grilled lamb chops, chicken tenders and entrecote.
Anatoly Michaello

For a more modern touch, the traditional pastries can also be ordered with toppings like shrimp and calamari in butter and garlic, smoked goose breast, spinach, chicken breast, mushrooms or Italian artichokes in olive oil. If you go all out like this, the huge pastries can easily make a meal in themselves.

There’s also chorziani, an acharuli filled with ground beef, tomatoes and parmesan (52 shekels) or meat khinkali (dumplings), for 45 shekels. You can also choose from grilled skewers of chicken tenders (39 shekels), entrecote or lamb ribs (75 shekels) served with Armenian lavash bread. All these come with salad, fries and rice.

The restaurant has a bar that serves red and white Georgian wines as well as an excellent chacha, the Georgian brandy that goes so well with this cuisine. On weekdays there is happy hour between 4 and 7 P.M with a 30 percent discount on all alcoholic drinks, as well as a 10-percent-off business lunch from noon to 4 P.M. We would be delighted to find some generous, innovative cocktails here in the future. They would be just the thing to enjoy while sitting at the outdoor tables right by the alleyways of the market.

For dessert, don’t pass up the churchkhela, a sausage-shaped candy made from nuts thickened with grape juice and hung up to dry in the sun. I’m not usually that keen on it, but this version was truly marvelous, not overly brittle and with a real home-made taste. It felt like it was served to us straight after being strung up, and was still fragrant and juicy.

Tash & Tasha promises to have deliveries available very soon, as well as longer hours and a lavish brunch full of surprises.