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Humble Magic in Georgian Capital’s Restaurant Renaissance

New York Times visited Georgian capital and discovered a magic of Georgian cuisine. Here are some stories of Tbilisi Restaurants and magic Georgian dishes.

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When the chef Meriko Gubeladze opened Shavi Lomi, she recalled that Tbilisi was “starving for small, homey restaurants with good food.” Tbilisi today has a reimagined dining scene. Instead of the same standard-issue 10 dishes, post-Soviet restaurants are bringing a humble magic to dining in Georgia’s capital city, with a focus on all things organic.

If sumptuous flavors and a living-room-like setting with bright carpets and heirloom batik tablecloths were Shavi Lomi’s contributions, promoting organic food and natural wine was the province of Vino Underground, a popular natural-wine bar and salon just around the corner.

Another hot spot is Barbarestan, housed in an old butcher shop with meat hooks still visible and caged singing canaries. Family-owned, the restaurant drew its menu from Georgia’s beloved 19th-century cookbook by Barbare Jorjadze, who celebrated the Silk Road influence of her country’s cuisine. While her cookbook remains a strong influence on other local dining spots too, Barbarestan’s fare shows fealty in all details. Ghee, clarified butter, is used exclusively. The nadugi — a typical fresh cheese spread and stuffing — gets a vegan spin when substituting Ms. Jorjadze’s recipe for pumpkinseed milk.

Walk another few minutes, on uneven cobblestones and broken sidewalks, past unmarked boutiques and fruit stalls that never seem to shut, and you will find the more upscale Azarphesha, now four years old.

With walls of museum-worthy displays showcasing ancient drinking vessels, the restaurant remains of the moment. Yet with its mix of traditional tablecloths and fresh wild posies, the room couldn’t feel less pretentious, especially when a table spontaneously burst out in the traditional, emotional polyphonic village songs, as often happens.

Husband and wife Nino and Luarsab Togonidze joined with a friend, the American expatriate painter and winemaker John Wurdeman, afashioned a fascinating Georgian fusion menu. In December, the three opened a new restaurant, Poliphonia, considered one of the best eating spots in town.

Reflecting on the city’s restaurant renaissance, Mr. Togonidze said the country’s recent political calm was only part of the story: “Compounded with a new generation who have grown up in freedom with the excitement about natural wine, how could that energy not spill over to the table?” he said. “After all, in Georgia, wine and food have always been intertwined.”