January 25, 2011

Food with a Moustache

Mimino - Georgisches Restaurant

Georgia (the country, not the state) has been an inseparable part of my world of references as far as I can remember. Even before I knew “Georgia” was a place, I knew “Georgian” was a perfectly acceptable adjective my Polish grandmother used in order to conjure the image of short, hairy and unhygienic men with thick, black and no less unhygienic moustaches. She could also use the word “Georgian” to describe my aunt’s obsessively tasteless collection of too colourful porcelain dolls. Sometimes she would say she’d just been to a “Georgian” restaurant, but by that she usually meant she had just been to a hole-in-the-wall that served greasy food and whose owner was a useless bum. Georgian food was something I only discovered later.

I cannot recall the first time I had Georgian food. I know I liked it and I know I could not help thinking of fat men reeking of cheap perfume and sweat. What I can clearly remember was the last time I went to a Georgian restaurant: it was a popular restaurant in Tallinn, hidden somewhere around the higher floors of a seedy Communist block. Inside it was decorated with the best overdose gold, red and bad taste paraphernalia could account for. Everyone seemed to be holding cigarettes in their hands and most men’s faces were hidden behind large moustaches. The icing on the cake was a short and husky woman with a microphone on an improvised stage in the centre of the room, titillating her bosom, singing the same Russian song in loops: ochen krasivaya zhenshina, a very beautiful woman. Oh, and yes, the food was delicious. Georgian food is just splendid: it is this fantastic fusion of Russian, Turkish and Persian food. It can be rich and tasty, both comfortably well-known and exotically intriguing.

When I was asked whether I wanted to go and try out Mimino in Charlottenburg, it did not take long for me to cancel other plans I may have had and storm out of my flat in the direction of the U7 towards the Old West. The place’s name is based on a classical Russian film about two (moustached) Georgian men, whose comic-like figures decorate the menu and the windows. Apparently, it’s a must-see comedy in the world of Russian film making. The restaurant itself is also a strange mixture of bad taste and attempted poshness. The walls are off-white and the tables are all set to raise expectations. However, TV screens are strewn around the place, showing mute football. As much as I was disappointed the place did not remind me of that Georgian place in Tallinn, all hope was not yet lost: the obligatory stage, microphone and playback cassette-recorder were all set in place and a small man was howling something that was supposed to be Frank Sinatra.

The menu was promising. It had a pleasing choice of fairly affordable Georgian dishes. As a starter (and I should probably state they were also listed as such), we ordered Chinkali (dumplings, the Georgian version of Russian pelmeni and Polish pierogi. The menu suggested them in three versions: with meat, potatoes and cheese. They were only available in the meaty and cheesy versions. We tried both, with cheese for the unit price of 0.90 € and meat for 0.80 € min. 5 units). For the main round, we ordered an array of things: Ostri (veal in spicy bell-pepper sauce, 9.50 €), Tschachochbili (chicken in tomato-coriander sauce, 8.50 €) and two chatschapourris (a sort of dough with cheese filling and topping, once with double cheese and one with garlic, 9.00 € and 10.00 €). As the main courses all come without sides, we ordered two more dishes of potatoes (3.00 €).

Ostri

It was then the chaos started. It seems like the division between “starters” and “main courses” was but a mere recommendation, as the first two dishes that appeared on the table were the first chatschapourri and the ostri. The ostri was not that spicy, but it was absolutely delicious. The meat was tender and the sauce was spectacularly good. The huge pot came without the potatoes or any other sides, and it took us a while before we realised we had to eat it before the other things came, or else it would get cold. The same goes for the chatschapourri. It was good, but a bit too monotonous and heavy: it was just dough with cheese, and lots of it. I’m the last one to say anything against dough and cheese, but it felt like eating a pizza-shaped brick. With those two dishes on the table, a waitress came out with a tray of butter cakes and asked us how many we wanted to reserve for the dessert, as “they are delicious and there might not be enough left once you get to the end”. We frowned, but could not take the pressure and reserved three.

Chatschapourri
Chinkali

Slowly but surely came out the other courses. The second chatschapourri seemed like an even heavier brick, but tschachochbili compensated for that by being delicious, yet still lacking its side dish. All the portions were very big, so that we were all more than satiated after the four main courses without the sides or the starters. This did not matter much for the waiters, as suddenly the chinkali decided to arrive. They were huge. Perversely so. The ones with the meat were utterly tasteless. The ones with the cheese (served with double cream and prune confiture) were fairly good quality, but so heavy they were difficult stuff down our throats. Just as the last bit had gone down, the waitress came out with our sides of potatoes. We managed to explain it was a bit too late for that, and after a bit more squabbling we even managed to cancel our pre-ordered dessert, as the last thing we were able to handle by that time was a butter cake with cream on top.

At the end of the day, it was quite an experience. The restaurant was chaotic and the service was miserable and pushy even for Berlin standards. But then again, it just made things strangely authentic. The food balanced between absolutely delicious (the meat dishes), good quality but too in-your-face heavy (the cheese dishes) and rather tasteless (the meat chinkali). A meal based on meaty main courses ONLY would probably be quite a success.

Overall mark:

Mimino - Georgisches Restaurant
Waitzstraße 1, 10629 Berlin
www.mimino-berlin.com 


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2 comments:

  1. Nice review. I've never tried Georgian food, but it looks great. Will have to get down there and try it out!

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  2. Well I don't know if I'm ever going to come to Berlin, but thank you for this guide, it's very well done!
    Please visit

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