Chama Mama: Journey into Georgian Cuisine

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Eat to Thrill Eats Again

My experience with regard to Eastern European food is rather limited, but in my quest to eat the world, I went to Chama Mama, a Georgian restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. It was my first time trying Georgian food, and when I say Georgian, I mean from the Republic of Georgia, in Eastern Europe, not the southern US.

At Chama Mama in NYC, you can choose to eat in the front or back dining rooms, or in the backyard patio. The interior is rustic, with wooden floors, chairs and tables, and on the walls are the Georgian alphabet, and lots of Georgian artwork. Some walls are painted white, while others are scratched up and need to be painted. If you’re unsure what to order, ask the waiter, who was so patient and welcoming.

Chama Mama décor--Cyrillic alphabet
Chama Mama décor--table with 2 paintings
Chama Mama décor--another table

On to the Food

There are various breads (stuffed and unstuffed), dumplings and vegetable-, fruit- and nut-based dishes, such as Cornish hen in blackberry sauce and lamb with plum sauce and green herbs, scallions, tarragon, scallions and cilantro. The lunch and dinner menus differ quite a bit, which is good, so you can get different dishes at different mealtimes.

My friend and I started off with assorted roasted wild mushrooms. It’s a mix of oyster, shiitake, cremini and white button mushrooms with roasted sweet red bell pepper and cilantro, served in a clay dish. To be honest, I don’t know what it was marinated in, but it was excellent.

Chama Mama roasted wild mushrooms
Roasted wild mushrooms

Main Courses

We both ordered the same course–megruli kharsho (chicken in walnut sauce with saffron, garlic and Georgian spices). I know at first glance it looks like an Indian curry, or korma, but it’s actually walnut sauce with shredded parsley sprinkled on top. The sauce was creamy, and undeniably nutty, but not overpowering. I thought the rectangular grits were kind of interesting, but I would’ve preferred bread. I only thought grits were served in southern food, not Eastern European food. We’re not talking about Georgia in the US, but the Republic of Georgia, right?

Chama Mama--Megruli Kharsho (Chicken in walnut sauce)
Megruli Kharsho (Chicken in walnut sauce)

MVP of the Evening

However, the MVP was undoubtedly the adjaruli khachapuri. In this dish, stringy, semi well-done cheese is poured into a bread shell and topped with an egg.It looked like a crock you’d eat French onion soup out of, but with handles. This was so beautiful and unique, and the fact that it was baked into its own bread shell added to the coolness factor. Apparently, it needed to be mixed in with butter before being eaten, so the waiter offered to do it for us. I’m not big on cheese, to be honest, but this totally did it for me. It was rich and smooth. Adjaruli khachpuri without a doubt, was the main draw for me. If there’s one Georgian dish to try, it’s this one. Order it. Now.

Adjaruli khachpuri
Adjaruli khachapuri
"Adjaruli khachpuri without a doubt, was the main draw for me. If there’s one Georgian dish to try, it’s this one. Order it. Now."

If you’re unwilling to try typical Georgian food, you can get a lamb or chicken kebab and play it safe. I’m kind of curious how they are, too.

I tried a fizzy Georgian lemonade-flavored cream soda, which was pretty smooth.

Chama Mama--lemonade cream drink
Georgian lemonade cream drink

Dessert Time

For dessert, my friend and I shared pelamushi—sweet grape pudding topped with toasted, crumbly flour. It tasted slightly gelatinous, but mushy, if that makes sense. It reminded me of a fruity breakfast bar. It was cool to try it and although I enjoyed it, I’ll skip it next time.

Chama Mama--pelamushi plum pudding
Pelamushi

When I return here, I’ll without a doubt try more of Chama Mama’s culinary delights.

Chama Mama outside

Chama Mama


149 West 14th Street New York, NY 10011
(646) 438-9007 www.chamamama.com

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