In Search of Georgian Cheese Bread in Rego Park
Marani, a recently opened Glatt kosher Georgian restaurant in Rego Park, prides itself on being only the second kosher Georgian restaurant in the world featuring two separate kitchens. Upstairs is a modern restaurant, serving meat-based Georgian specialties while Alicia Keys plays over the speakers. Nestled in the basement is a far more spartan bakery, serving cheesy khachapuri and other dairy products.
Our group was determined to gorge on food from both kitchens. As it turns out, the basement khachapuri is the standout. While waiting for our breads to bake, we passed around the two competing brands of Georgian mineral waters—Borjomi (my personal favorite) and Nabeghlavi—as well as a powerfully green tarragon soda, plus a pear soda that tasted suspiciously like the "Champagne" flavored-cola popular in the Caribbean.
First came the Khachapuri Megruli ($12), a brown-speckled, bubbling disc filled with sulguni cheese (think ricotta with a sharper, feta-like flavor) and topped with a star of even more cheese. The baker conveniently sliced the khachapuri for easier eating.
Next came the Khachapuri Imeruli ($10). Perhaps the purest of the khachapuris, it's stuffed with cheese, but lacks the distinctive cheese topping of the megruli. It recalls a stuffed pizza, since it essentially tastes like two white pizza slices sandwiched together, oozing cheese and oil.
Khachapuri Adjaruli ($13) is invariably the showstopper. Shaped like a fat canoe, it's filled with sulguni and more butter than I care to think about, then finished with raw egg. Mix everything up, then pull off bites as the cheese/butter/egg threatens to spread all over the plate.
These khachapuri were very good, not as top-notch as what you'll find in Tblisi or Sheepshead Bay, but superior to Alphabet City's Oda House. If you're looking for a cheesy bread fix, Marani has you covered.