In an effort to show Doug’s parents all Tel Aviv has to offer during their short visit, we determined to show them just how varied the city’s culinary options were. In just six days, over the course of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we covered Israeli, Greek, Iraqi, Druze, Kurdish, Italian, Mediterranean, and Georgian cuisine… While I don’t necessarily eat all of those on a regular basis, I was generally familiar with all of them except one—Georgian.
We stumbled upon Nanuchka during some intense internet hunting during our itinerary planning. The menu looked intriguing and we thought it’d be cool to try a new cuisine. Little did we know just how much of a hot-spot Nanuchka is. While the restaurant was quiet when we arrived, it was soon packed, buzzing with diners’ conversations and bustling with activity as waiters ran to and fro. The dining and bar crowds were mostly in their late-twenties and early thirties, it seemed.
With things like mjave, badridghani, setsivy, khinkali, chibureki, and parshevangi on the menu and no idea what they were, we were at a complete loss as to what to order. Luckily, we were saved the difficult task of choosing by the pchaili, the Georgian antipasti, which came with seven different things.
With a plateful of various appetizers in front of me, I wasn’t sure where to begin… the eggplant rolls stuffed with walnuts and herbs or the spicy eggplant salad? Or maybe the beet salad, mangold and walnuts salad, or homemade pickles? But what about the vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs and the cabbage with walnuts and Georgian saffron?
I ended up starting with the beet salad, whose deep burgundy color appealed to me immediately. They were soft, almost velvety, with a simple tart flavor that was just a little bit spicy.
I followed with the stuffed vine leaves (which I’m guessing are grape leaves). The leaves were surprisingly tough, requiring more of a bite than the stuffed grape leaves I’m accustomed to. They had a pickley lemon flavor whose bite was tampered by the creamy rice filling.
The homemade pickles were one of my favorites. The pickled, firm vegetables topped with dill seasoning and some sort of amazing marinade were delicious.
The cabbage with nuts and Georgian saffron was good, albeit somewhat similar in appearance and texture to the mangold and walnuts salad. The former was earthy while the latter had a little spice, but ultimately the two tasted quite similar.
Meanwhile, the spicy eggplant salad was a mush of soft, cold, but incredibly flavorful eggplant. Quite tasty, I’d say (and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of cooked eggplant on its own).
The centerpiece of the dish was the eggplant rolls stuffed with walnuts and herbs. Not only were they presented beautifully, but they were incredibly tasty. They had a nice, eggplant flavor with the usual smokey aftertaste. The soft texture was complemented by the walnut filling and crispy leafy garnish.
Throughout our devouring of the antipasti, we each had pieces of the wonderful full-flavored lavach (Georgian bread). It had such an amazing crunch and was fluffy despite its thinness. It came with an oil dip with honey and raisins on the bottom, which made the bread perfectly savory and quite impossible to stop eating.
Luckily, despite having a plethora of delicious Georgian appetizers and some bread, to boot, I had plenty of room for the baked sea bass and cheese chibureki, which Doug and I split.
Before I get to what a chibureki is, let me tell you a little about the sea bass. Not someone who usually orders fish in restaurants, I was pleasantly surprised by Nanuchka’s fish. It was buttery with a lightly crisped top that contrasted wonderfully with the soft texture of the rest of the fish. It was well salted and came with spinach, walnuts, and dill on top. One of the best parts? The meaty part of the fish came right off the skin. Nothing frustrates me more than slimy fish skin clinging to my tender fish meat. The dish came with a side of salad, comprised of what seemed like three or four very large leaves, and some potatoes, which were a little bland but not bad.
I followed up the sea bass with cheese chibureki—essentially, a fried cheese pocket reminiscent of a calzone. The doughy pocket was filled with a mix of cheeses that was collectively salty and had the consistency of creamy mashed potatoes. Yum!
Doug’s parents got the following delectable-looking dishes:
As we wrapped up our dinner, we looked around. While the restaurant was empty when we arrived, it was absolutely jam packed by the end of our dinner. It almost felt like a club, if only because we couldn’t exit the way we entered and we had to fight through crowds to get out. But ultimately, the experience of having a new cuisine in a one-of-a-kind restaurant was definitely worth it.