Lagidze / Лагидзе
3 Blinskogo ul. (See Map)
Georgian Traditional Foods and Cuisines
Meals for $10-12
Cafe Lagidze is a Georgian restaurant just off the beaten path, located minutes away from both the Fontanka River and the Saint Petersburg State Theater Academy. It is next door to a very popular English Pub, Oliver Twist (review to come soon!). I went to Cafe Lagidze with Justin and Nathan, who, like me, are on SRAS programs in St. Petersburg. As we walked in, we immediately felt the Georgian atmosphere. There were vines draped over the lights and grape leaves hanging from the doorway. The ceilings were low and made of brick and authentic, old Mongol artwork hung on the wall. However, we also immediately noticed the American hits playing of the radio – major buzz kill. Our waitress was a young Georgian girl, nice and patient; she brought us a menu in Russian and in English. In fact the English menu was quite helpful as Georgian food uses a much wider variety of ingredients then Russian food, more than we had become familiar with in our Russian-centric lessons and experiences in St. Petersburg. For example, quail (перепел) and tarragon (эстрагон) are often used in Georgian cooking, but rare in Russian dishes.
We ordered a healthy amount of entrees, mainly because we wanted to try everything! Nathan first ordered quail. The waitress came back shortly to inform him that there was no quail in the house. He then tried a steak, the cut of which she also declared was not available. We finally settled on the following: two portions of potatoes, one baked with onions, the other “forest-style” which meant the addition of dill. Furthermore, we ordered “tsar-style mushrooms,” essentially pickled and in some sort of watery sauce, with greens, mainly dill. Additionally, there was grilled beef with nuts and onions in a red, tomato based sauce. Next, the turnedo steak, which we initially thought meant “tornado steak,” as that is how the term is transliterated in English, and which helped intrigue us into trying it. It turns our that “turnedo,” however, is a term borrowed from French and refers to a way of preparing beef tenderloin. We also added baked cheese, (which is literally cheese, melted then baked), mushroom soup, and the traditional khachapuri – bread and cheese baked into deliciousness; plus tea.
We had so much food. In fact, way too much. We could have done without a few of the dishes and still have been full and under the 300 rouble limit. The khachapori was amazing; exactly what I had hoped for. There was cheese on the inside and outside and the bread was light and fluffy. The baked cheese, we decided, could be done without. It was flavorful, yes, but unnecessary and really had no substance – it was only cheese. The mushrooms were good, but as they were pickled they would be better with vodka then with our dinner, so we voted they could also be left out. Nathan’s beef in tomato sauce was savory, the tomato sauce was rich and spicy, adding to the dish’s great combination of tastes. That is on our list for next time. Justin’s steak was also amazing; for a Russian cut of meat and the price we paid for it (only 210 rubles!!), we definitely give it five stars, maybe six for bacon. The two potato dishes were unnecessary, we barely touched them.
All in all, our bill totaled 1410 rubles, or an average of 470 rubles per person, will over our budget of 300 rubles. We were beyond full and had ordered way to much food, beguiled by the exotic menu. The steak, for 210 roubles, paired with the potatoes at 80 roubles, keeps you under 300 roubles, given with no beverage, but a meal to fill you up and send you on your way.
However, the real trick to Georgian eating is ordering as a group, which is not something that many Americans are used to, but is something that is common to Georgians. Thinking this way, and beating back our eyes to match our stomachs, we could have had the two beef entrees, the khatchapuri (the size of a large pizza), one potato dish, and non-alcoholic drinks for everyone – for exactly 300 rubles a piece. If you do this, most Georgian restaurants will be hospitable enough (hospitality is what Georgians are known for), to bring you extra plates so that you divvy up the portions.
However, we still thought that the bit extra cash was worth it as the spread was festive and delicious. We will definitely be returning to Cafe Lagidze and ordering a new variety of dishes to test our taste buds. We will also remain open-minded as we have realized that they do not always have everything on their menu (typical at restaurants in Russia). However, I think it’s hard to make a wrong choice at a Georgian cafe!
For groups and faculty-led tours, Cafe Lagidze can be a good choice, if you are going to have a formal dinner, reserved with a set menu. Again, trick is to order dishes that will be shared – and thus stuff people on a budget of $10-12 per head. The more limited seating would also require reservations, but most Georgian restaurants of all sizes will welcome and accommodate groups.