A Delicious Taste of Georgia (As In Eastern Europe, Not the Deep South) in Palo Alto
Russian food is certainly not something you find on every street corner.
Georgian cuisine? Well, you have to squint even harder for that.
Fortunately, though, if you point your eyes in just the right direction, you will find what is thought to be the only Georgian restaurant in Northern California.
Bevri opened in downtown Palo Alto in 2018. It is a gem of a place founded by Google employee Pavel Sirotin with his brother and sister-in-law. Russian-born Sirotin noticed the dearth of Georgian restaurants when he moved to the Bay Area a few years ago. So he decided to open his own — despite not ever owning a restaurant before.
When my friend and I took our Russian-born friend Lina out for her birthday recently, we couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate than Bevri, where we paid our own tab at the end. It even gave Lina a fun opportunity to converse in Russian with the waitstaff.
Bevri celebrates the cuisine of Georgia, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, which was once part of the Soviet Union. You can see influences from both those regions in this hearty, comforting food.
If you’ve never tried Georgian wine, this is the place to do so, as it boasts probably the largest collection to be found anywhere locally. Georgia has a long tradition of wine-making, but I admit this was my first time trying any. If you’re as mystified by the wine list as I was, have no fear. The server was as helpful as can be. When she asked what kind of wine I usually like, I told her I definitely have a love of pinot noir, especially slightly earthy and leathery ones. She recommended a glass of the Saperavi Vinoterra Dry 2016 ($17). Medium-body and inky, it definitely possessed earthiness, along with minerality and an aroma of black currants.
You could make a meal just out of the appetizers and share plates here.
Thanks to Instagram, probably the most well-known dish at Bevri is the khachapuri adjaruli ($18). The boat-shaped bread arrives warm with a center filled with gooey cheese, a golden egg yolk, and a knob of butter. Smear the butter all over, and pierce the yolk to let it run freely. Then, dive in. It is soft, yeasty, and rich. For a carb lover like me, it is plain heaven.
The Sampler ($16) is a great way to enjoy an array of appetizers on one plate. It is heaped with a vivid and tangy beet dip; a spinach one fortified with herbs, garlic and walnuts; and satsivi, which is the color of hummus, but is really a creamy walnut sauce fortified with chicken. Alongside are a few slices of toasted Georgian bread, as well as three custardy eggplant rolls wrapped around a filling of walnuts and herbs.
Think of khinkali as like giant xia long bao. Choose mushroom, lamb and beef, or traditional pork and beef filling ($18), which is what we opted for. You get three to an order. Our server instructed us how to eat them: Pick one up with your fingers by its gathered top, turn it upside down, then take a tiny bite to suck out the warm broth, before biting into the big meatball inside. These are more rustic than Chinese soup dumplings, with a thicker, chewier wrapper, but wonderfully satisfying in their own way.
We decided to share everything, including the entrees, which worked especially well with the lamb ribs (3 for $36). The bone-in lamb rib chops arrive tender and juicy, with a separate bowl of tomato-based sauce to accompany it.
That same bowl of sauce arrives alongside the chicken Tapaka, which comes either in a half order ($20) or whole ($36). We opted for the latter, which is served with roasted potatoes. This traditional spatchcock chicken is pressed with an iron as it’s pan-fried with garlic. The skin gets quite crisp, the flesh moist, and everything gets a nice toasty flavor.
We were already eyeing desserts when we sat down and noticed a revolving refrigerator case like those old-timey diner ones at one end of the counter.
The honey cake ($10) is made up of super thin layers of cake spread with a tangy sour cream frosting. It’s maybe not as honey-forward as the rendition at 20th Century Cafe in San Francisco. Yet it’s still plenty sweet and tender, and you won’t be able to stop sticking your fork into it.
When the waitstaff realized we were celebrating a birthday, the server brought over a napoleon ($8) on the house with a candle in it. The layers of crisp pastry were filled with a thick pastry cream that I only wish had a little more vanilla or almond flavoring in it to give it more oomph.
If that weren’t enough, we were also presented with house-made walnut-honey candies at the end of the night.
Bevri means “a lot” and that’s exactly what you’ll find to like there.
A perfect time to try Bevri is 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 6, when the restaurant will host vintner Victor Eristavi of Eristavi Winery. The Georgian native now makes wine in California. He’ll be offering flights of five of his wines. Tickets are $30 each.
More Places to Check Out in Palo Alto: Zola
And: Bird Dog