The Tale of Barberastan, Tbilisi

Tutmanji soup with hand-made noodles.
Like a fairy tale, the makings of Barberestan, one of the World's 50 Best based in Tbilisi, Georgia, is a story that begins with a once upon a time. Seeking for inspiration, the Kurasbedianis, a restauranteur family, had an aha moment when they found a treasure in a flea market-- an old, original cookbook from legendary writer, feminist and chef Duchess Barbare Eristavi Jorjadze. The cookbook entitled "Sruli Samzaruelo (The Full Cuisine)" is a trove of 19th century classic recipes, most of which have been lost through the waves of time from the Ottoman and Russian empire occupation to 70 years of Soviet dictatorship

Together with Chef David Narimanishvili, the Kurasbedianis developed what is now the menu at the Barbarestan, which opened in 2015, with insipirations from chef Jorjadze's cookbook to suit the modern world, dedicating the name of the establishment to chef Jorjadze.
Barbare Jorjadze cookbook
The flea market find that inspired the makings of Barbarestan. 
As you step in Barbarestan, it feels that the old town meets modern Tbilisi, the bustling metropolis of Georgia. You get a chance to discover forgotten but authentic Georgian food in a cozy setting with a mix of soft-lighted lampshades, laced tablecloths, and vintage crockery, which I later learned were also bought from a flea market. 
At the entrance of Barbarestan.
Barbarestan excels in concocting a juxtaposition of familiar and unique seasonal, local ingredients and cooking techniques, such as salmon on a bed of black (from octopus ink) vermicelli and an elevated version of a tomato salad -- Georgians do love their tomatoes! What caught my palette that most is a soup called tutmanji. Even googling the term only results back to Barbarestan. An authentic dish from the southern region of Samtskhe-Javakheti, tutmanji is a hearty soup filled with hand-made noodles and creamy chicken broth. Instead of croutons, they use beer pops -- one that is crispy on the outside and pops lightly in your mouth like those pop rock candies I once devoured as a kid. 

Traditional Georgian restaurants usually don't have many seafood selection in their menu even though the western part of the country lies on the Black Sea. For a seafood lover, Barbarestan offers a surprising take on salmon that can be paired with a semi-sweet white qvevri Georgian wine. In all of my travels, I've never had such an intricate, multi-textured dish from the soft cream on top of the fish to the crispy vermicelli on the bottom. Its memorable, intriguing presentation and flavors remind me of diving deep into the dark blue abyss with fishes swimming gracefully around a thorny black sea urchin. 
salmon with black vermicelli
The intriguing salmon on a bed of black vermicelli.
Tomato salad
Elevated tomato salad.
As I gaze around the dining hall bustling with local and foreign patrons who can now dine indoors based on covid protocols in the city, my eyes are drawn towards the restaurant's centerpiece, a painting of the late chef Jorjadze, a woman ahead of her time pushing boundaries not only in the culinary field but also in advocating for women. 
chef Jorjadze
A painting of chef Jorjadze as centerpiece.
Barbarestan prides itself with high standards in its impeccable service that is evident on how the waitstaff meticulously introduces each dish.  The subtlety yet decadence of my dessert finale -- one that can rival any fine dining institutions around the world -- is also a true testament to attention to detail. 
It's all about the details in this dessert.
Undoubtedly, giving an ode to chef Jorjadze's classic recipes has revolutionized modern Georgian cuisine. Barbarestan is currently at the forefront of this revolution and hoping for a long-lasting happily ever after.

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary dining experience at this establishment in exchange for an honest review.

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