It is not that often that you see a Georgian Bakery and restaurant opening and when Chama Mama opened last Spring, it got people talk (I am talking about the Eastern European country). Replacing a Cuban restaurant in Chelsea (El Paraiso), Chama Mama is a casual place with in the kitchen in the middle, visible from the dining room and exhibiting their « tone », a very large clay oven that apparently every Georgian home has (in a smaller version) and where they cook bread most of the day (this one uses gas).
Interestingly, Chama Mama means « Eat Well Dad ». « Mama » being the word for « Dad » and « dida » Mom, Georgian being one of the sole languages to reverse the two. Eating well is definitely not an issue there as they offer lots of mouth watering dishes, some vegetarian, perfect to share, with an emphasis on their bread, the « puri », especially the katchapuri adjarui that is like a small bowl with cheese and an egg yolk that they would mix, at the table, with a generous piece of butter, creating a fatty cheesy cream. This is a must have for sure but is a bit filling: the bread is amazing and I would eat it just like that, without anything on it. I especially loved the crunchiness of the crust.
Also, they had the great idea to propose an appetizer sampler, perfect to share: a taste of Georgia. It had all of the cold plates they offer:
Stuffed red sweet pepper (Walnuts, blue fenugreek, garlic & marigold leaves),
Stuffed eggplant (Walnuts, coriander, garlic & red wine vinegar),
Adjabsandali (/ adjah-psan-da-lee / - eggplant, tomato, mixed peppers & purple basil),
Gebjalia (/geb-jah-lia/ - handmade cheese rolled with yogurt and mint),
Ekala (/eh-kah-la/ - wild bitter greens and walnuts served with cornbread).
I should have mentioned before that they write on their menu how to pronounce each dish so you do might hesitate less when ordering but I admit that even without this, I still show the item on the menu. Then, if you notice, lots of the dishes have walnuts in it so it you have a nut allergy or do not like nuts, you cannot order this. In such case, if you have only one choice to make, i would go for the Adjabsandali that was my favorite dish.
The last dish before dessert khinkali, pronounced / khin-ka-lee / , their signature house made dumplings that can either be filled with goat cheese, feta and hazelnuts or the beef and pork blend. I went for the latter. Apparently, the way to eat it is like the Taiwanese soup dumplings as it supposed to have some sauce or soup in it. I tried but there was barely no liquid...Know that these large dumplings do not come with any sauce on the side. Although I liked the meat filling, I however found the shell to be too thick and doughy. Too bad.
With my meal, I tried few wines that are made in Kveri, a clay pot similar to an amphora that is buried to let the wine mature. After trying a rosé and an amber wine, I settled for a red one, a Mosmieri saperai that was dry.
Last was dessert. The first one was a honey cake that I thought would be flakier and would have preferred more honey on it, as well as a grape tart that was just ok.
So no, I was not as thrilled for dessert as for the bread. Still, Chama Mama offers an interesting menu and their bread is to die for. I would in fact mainly go back for that but would still try some of the other dishes they have like their guinea hen or lamb chops.
Enjoy (I did)!
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Chama Mama - 149 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011