Wednesday, May 23, 2007

5 top restaurants

Wu Wei has allowed people to tag themselves to describe their 5 top restaurants. Not sure that I can manage 5, and they certainly won't be the highest-falutin' cuisine ....

My currently favourite restaurant, for heart attack on a plate, is the little khatchapuri restaurant just up from the Marjanishvili theatre in Tbilisi. It's near my work, and it does the best Adjaran khachapuri I have tasted so far. This khachapuri consists of crispy bread dough shaped into a boat, into which is poured a mixture of egg, salty cheese, topped with a raw egg yolk and a generous lump of butter. You mix it all up, and then dip bits of the bread crust in the mixture. It's out of this world! This restaurant has the right kind of oven to make a success of this khachapuri - I've had insipid, soggy versions in other restaurants which might have done other food well, but for this it needs a stone oven. My favourite lunchtime mix is this khachapuri and a Borjomi water for about 4 Euros.

The next favourite is the yakitoria, in Moscow and Kiev. It's a chain of Japanese restaurants, working on a franchise basis, I think, and you get the same food everywhere. The one opposite the Novotel in Moscow, near the Mendelevskaya metro station, is the best one. There's nearly always a queue, so the food is really freshly made. In others sometimes the rice and also the fish can be a little dry. It was great comfort food at challenging moments in projects! Cost for a decent sized sushi and a beer or two is about 20 Euros or so.

Cafe Landtmann in Vienna is the greatest for an early breakfast on the way back from far flung parts. Their breakfast is magnificent, though the rolls could be made with more characterful flour. Costs a fortune (12.70 Euros for their 'great breakfast' plus money for having your coat taken care of and for going to the toilet; as opposed to the 2.90 Euros for a similar breakfast I noticed in an East Berlin cafe recently) but it's well worth it. In the evening the cooking is very traditional Vienna; probably not outstanding but it's the atmosphere you pay for and watching Vienna at play. In the mornings you sometimes see people returning from balls. The cakes are scrumptious, too and you could pretend to be a Viennese pensioner sipping your melange....

Henderson's in Edinburgh's Hanover Street is a well-established vegetarian cafe/restaurant with self-service. It may be vegetarian, but the calorie count can be high. They always have a selection of main courses, salads and deserts, and the helpings are serious. Their trifle is to die for - lashings and lashings of cream and custard, and is it a chocolate sponge underneath? At festival time there is always a queue, but it moves quickly, and you always find a seat, often beside middle-aged ladies reading the Scotsman. Just up the road round the corner it has a bistro with table service, and there is also a shop where you can buy healthy food. Very reasonably priced for the UK.

in Berlin serves Alpine cuisine (the name does not mean 'Snow-White' of the 7 dwarves, but simply 'snowy white'). It's not poached edelweiss, or gentian soup, but interesting food nicely served, in big helpings. Everything about it (apart from the food) is white, and that includes the website. It's usually full of twenty/thirty something people having a good time, in a restrained German sort of a way, not in a gassed, puking up everywhere sort of British way (other young Germans take care of that). Prices are similar to those at Henderson's, but with nice service and beautifully presented food.