It certainly speaks to Brooklyn’s exceptional diversity that we’re reasonably knowledgeable about Georgia–and not just that it’s a Caucasian country, as well as the peach capital of America. We’ve actually had pretty steady exposure to its singularly comforting fare, transmuting our passion for pizza into a love of khachapuri–hearth-baked, cheese-stuffed bread–and more recently, embracing amber wine as well, fermented and aged in man-sized earthenware pots.
Yet for the most part, acquiring either has traditionally required a pilgrimage to the outer-outer boroughs, to a concentration along Kings Highway, or yes, our neighborhood of Bath Beach (and we know what a trial it is to get even our closest friends to come out here). So now that Williamsburg finally boasts its own khachapuri destination on Berry, it should hasten a borough-wide institutionalization of authentic Georgian cuisine.
Shrewdly, Cheeseboat owner Netty Davitashvili has appointed the bread as her ambassador; “Fuck Pizza, Eat Cheeseboats!” demands the sandwich board by the door. It’s an easy mandate to obey–although khachapuri comes in various, regional permutations throughout Georgia (all of which will eventually find their way onto Cheeseboat’s evolving menu), Davitashvili has chosen to hitch her wagon to arguably the very greatest rendition. That would be Adjaruli–a canoe-shaped, sulguni cheese-bloated, raw egg-crowned specialty of Adjara–located at the foot of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, along the coast of the Black Sea. In an extra flourish, Davitashvili has even anointed hers with a buttery infusion of truffle (an ingredient especially beloved of Georgians), and offers alternate fillings such as garlicky spinach or cream sauced-shkmeruli chicken, which can also be ordered solo, accompanied by slabs of freshly baked bread.
Bread and cheese, cheese and bread; how can you not fall recklessly in love with a restaurant unabashedly predicated on this? And khachapuri is only a starting point; consider mertsvi, a stretchy dip of melted cheese and mashed potato, kept warm by a sterno and meant for slathering atop bread. Or mini chvishtari, griddled coins of crumbly cornbread with oozing innards of cheese. And oh, there’s wine too, although not, as of yet, amber. While Davitashvili is charmed (and a bit bemused) by New Yorker’s sudden, current obsession, she’d sooner serve what you’ll generally find natives of Georgia actually drinking. That means Tsinandali, a dry, three-year-aged white comprised of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes, and Kindzmarauli–lots of it–a soft, semi-sweet red derived from Saperavi. Georgians tend to imbibe it like water, and (considering their famous hospitality and ardor for entertaining), Davitashvili will more than likely insist that you do too.
So thanks, Cheeseboat; we’ve officially despaired of anyone deigning to visit us in Bath Beach.
80 Berry St, (929) 295-8401
Photos by Sasha Turrentine