Address: Narodnaya ul., 22
Tel: +7 (495) 912-9990
Open from 12:00 until 24:00.
All major credit cards are accepted.
By Dena May Fisher
Hurray! The season of the shashleek is upon us! The weekend exodus of hordes of Muscovites, creating traffic jams as they head to and from their summer Dachas can mean only one thing: The smell of barbecued pork will pervade the country air for miles around! For those of us unfortunate enough to be stuck in the city, or for others who merely have an aversion to mosquitoes and grass in their food, the best way to satisfy the Shashleek urge is to head to one of Moscow's many Georgian restaurants. Last week I threw caution (and weeks of dieting!) to the wind, and opted for this urban version of the meaty feast.
As we all know, the wide variety of Georgian restaurants in Moscow ensures that both the quality of the food and the impact on the wallet (and the waistline!) can vary considerably, although it is generally possible to find good Georgian fare for very modest sums. With a prime location just off the Novy Arbat, it is no surprise that Chito Grito rates slightly higher than usual on the price scale, but did we get a juicier shashleek or a cheesier hachipuri for our money? Unlike the salad - the verdict was mixed.
Our hearts sank as we entered the restaurant and saw the all too familiar "table in a stable" type decor which seems to invariably define the Georgian dining experience. While I could ignore the cart wheel light-fittings and faux-rural wooden furniture, I chose to sit with my back to the stuffed yak's head which peered disconcertingly down onto the tables below. Call it "urban nonsense" if you will, but I like my dead animals stuffed with rice and mounted on a bed of greens, rather than suspended on the wall above me as I carve up their distant cousin for dinner. My companion and I eagerly diverted our attention from the decor to the (Russian language only) menu and were thankfully reassured by the wide choice of dishes on offer.
We selected some of the most traditional dishes in addition to a few of the house specials. Our stunningly beautiful Osetian waitress, elegantly dressed in traditional black gowns, was helpful and informative as she took our order, offering to start the preparation of our first courses while we continued to deliberate over our choice of mains. Much to our rumbling tummies delight, this system worked well, and our cold starters soon appeared with a steaming hachipuri hot on their tails.
The Green lobio with nuts (130Rbs) was tastier than many of the bland offerings I have tried in the past, but as usual, it was impossible to eat more than a few mouthfuls before tiring of the all too rich and thick consistency. The Chicken satsivi (190Rbs) on the other hand, was a delight to the taste buds: tender strips of chicken in a delicately spiced creamy sauce, chilled to perfection, providing a cool and refreshing dish perfectly suited to a warm summer evening. The Hachipuri (190Rbs) was served sizzling on a hot plate, and proved to be a fine example of this, one of the all-time favourites of Georgian cuisine. The Harcho soup (130Rbs) was nice albeit somewhat uninteresting; although the huge chunks of "melt in your mouth" beef which were to found hiding under the surface were a pleasant surprise indeed.
Being the self-confessed "cheese addict" that I am, the highlight of the dinner (and the ultimate halt of the calorie counting) came for me, in the form of the Fried sulugini "on a kesi" (120Rbs). Wow!! A "kesi" is a type of hot plate on which the strong and salty cheese is melted, then served bubbling and sizzling, ready to be scooped up with a spoon and eaten with such pleasure as is rarely afforded to cheese lovers in Russia! For those of you who have eaten a French raclette and wondered why you have to put up with the potatoes and sliced sausage, just to be able to have the melted cheese - then this one's for you! Believe me, it's sinfully good!!
Enough about the cheese! What about the meat? Well, we ordered a Pork shashleek (300Rbs) and a Lamb shashleek (450Rbs). The lamb was definitely the better of the two: It was tender and tasty, whereas the pork was overcooked and dry and tasted just like a chicken shashleek I had in Rostiks the other day! The portions were fair, and the sauces were tangy, though my favourite was the Adzhika sauce (70Rbs) which had more of a chilli kick to it. The fresh vegetable Georgian salad (250Rbs) we ordered to accompany the meat was an overpriced, disappointing bowl of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers - a boring array of vitamins, if ever I saw one! All in all - the main course did not live up to the promise of the starters.
We passed on desert (my guilty conscience suddenly got the better of me!) and went straight to coffees. As we sipped the rather good Turkish coffee (70Rbs) my companion and I decided that despite the substandard salad and pork (and of course, the aforementioned decor!), Chito Grito's good service, genuine Georgian recipes and reasonably sensible prices would leave most customers satisfied and coming back for more. And if it's a business lunch you're after, then I'm sure the 3 different options (140, 160 and 200Rbs) would be pretty hard to beat.
In any case: Forget the dacha! Forget the meat! Forget the diet!! I know where I'll be headed when I need my next fix of cheese.