Chama Mama

Until relatively recently, the only place to get Georgian food was in Brighton Beach. A trip there has been on my list for quite some time, but I’m glad a few restaurants have opened in Manhattan that make this cuisine far more accessible. It also means that melty cheesy bread bowl you’ve been seeing all over Instagram is also more accessible. We all need melty cheesy bread bowls within arm’s reach, don’t you think?

The closest [to us] of these Manhattan spots is Chama Mama. True, I was drawn to the name (it’s fun to say, right?!) and likely would have wanted to check it out regardless of the cuisine, but was extra happy to realize it was something new and different. Never having been to Georgia (the country), I can’t tell you how legit it is, but it tasted delicious and they’ve invested in traditional equipment like a custom clay oven that seems like the real deal. But traditional doesn’t mean it can’t also be modern. The’ve kept the decor lively with graphic wall art and a neon Georgian alphabet.

Khachapuri is the cheese bread you’ve seen everywhere. The bread itself is shaped into a boat with warm cheese and a runny egg in the middle. Tableside, they’ll add a pat of butter and mix it all up so you can then rip off pieces of the bread to dip in the middle. It’s dreamy. We had to have it, of course. Not only was I pleased the khachapuri lived up to the hype, I was happy to learn there are all sorts of cheesy breads native to Georgian cuisine. My Mom ordered another variety for her entrée, the penovani khachapuri, which has the cheese inside a fully enclosed puff pastry (vs. the yeasty bread of the other app) and was topped with a tomato and cucumber salad.

For our entrées, my beau and I both ordered kababs (chicken for him; beef/pork for me) and he also got the pork skewers. Yes, he ordered too much but I was very happy when I found the leftovers in our fridge later. the kababs were wrapped in a lavash bread and served with mint sauce, while the skewers were served naked (with onions) with a green plum sauce. The skewers were tender and the kababs were a perfectly sized sandwich. Honestly, the only thing that didn’t rock my boat was the tarragon lemonade. I thought it would be homemade, like their main lemonade, but it turned out to be a bottled fizzy drink that was a bit too sweet for my taste. Live and learn.

While I was under the impression that Georgia was most similar to Russia/Ukraine, it’s geographically closest to Turkey so the cuisine more closely resembles that. Georgian food is the next big thing. Get with it.