Georgian Pomegranate Sausage, Cheese Bread, Eggplant with Walnuts at Mtskheta Cafe in Bath Beach
Mtskheta Cafe has been chugging along for a couple years now, serving Georgian cuisine to Bath Beach beneath the trundling D train. In its earlier days it received ebullient praise from some, qualified recommendations from others. Today? There are three truths I'd note if you visit: you will not leave hungry, the staff will take great care of you, and you'd be a fool to miss out on the house eggplant.
It's called, simply enough, Eggplant with Walnuts ($7.95), thin slices of fried, chilled eggplant rolled up with heavy dollops of a walnut paste with murmurs of spice and sparks of dill. Messier than a canapé but far more interesting, it's a standout showcase of the ruddy interplay of caramelized eggplant, toasted nuts, and fenugreek. If you order one thing at Mtskheta, make it this.
Beyond the eggplant, lamb stew and pork sausage fare reasonably well. The former is Chakapuli ($9.95), a small soup of tender stewed lamb with loads of fresh tarragon, proof that lamb and herbs transcends all cultural boundaries. Take care as you cut into the coarsely Kupati sausage ($13.95)—the snappy natural casing gives way to small rivers of fat that ruin any chance the accompanying fries ever had at crispiness (though what you lose in crunch you gain in pork-soaked potato). It's a touch less seasoned than I'd like, though crunchy pomegranate seeds add texture and bursts of fruitiness.
You may want some cheese bread too, the famed Khachapuri ($7.85). At Mtskheta it's a simple Imeruli style, thin sheets of dough stuffed to bursting with oozy mozzarella. There's a wintery appeal to the sheer weight of it, but you can find more interesting takes elsewhere in Brooklyn, as the cheese here is oily and rather bland.
Fortunately the Georgian Salad ($7.50), though plain, is refreshing and well done. Ripe tomato and crisp cucumber are slicked with just a touch of oil but predominantly fresh and sweet. You've had this salad before; Mtskheta is a good place to have it again.
If you're struggling about what to order, don't hesitate to rely on the servers, who are worlds more amiable than the eastern European restaurant treatment you might be used to. What they lack in English fluency they more than make up for in helpfulness, and they're happy to translate and describe dishes for as long as you'd like.
Before you pay your tab and head out, consider an oversized bottle of so-called Tarragon Lemonade ($2.50). This fizzy soft drink, devoid of lemon but rich with fresh-tasting tarragon, is too sweet for the rich food on the menu (opt for beer instead), but it makes an excellent non-alcoholic nightcap. Don't let the color scare you off; like everything else at Mtskheta, it tastes wholly genuine.