If you are anything like me, you turned to this week's review of Tumanyan Khinkali Factory hoping to find news of a new, Georgian restaurant serving something close to the cooking you find at the better places in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach neighborhood (and briefly here at the short-lived Ritza down on Wilshire). Georgia may have the most appealing cuisine in that part of the world: feast-oriented dishes that lean heavily on walnuts and eggplant, peppers and herbs. But TKF is at heart an Armenian restaurant built around a single, compelling Georgian dish: a supercharged version of the soup-filled Georgian dumpling khinkali.
Still, there are Georgian dishes here and there in town – at Pink Orchid in Westwood, Kavkaz in Hollywood and even the Oxnard Coffee Shop in Van Nuys. In Glendale, you are likely to find the Georgian cheese bread khachipuri at your favorite local pizzeria. And if you want the full-on Georgian experience, you can always go to Old Village, just a few blocks south of TFK, where you will find gilt-edged old-world china, the occasional chain-smoking priest and kharcho spicy-tart enough to make you blink and say: "Hey – this is kharcho.'' It's not Tbilisi, but for our purposes it is close enough.
You will be drinking Russian mineral water, bright-green soda flavored with tarragon or a plum drink called compote, made right back there in the kitchen, that tastes not unlike dilute Hawaiian Punch.
So you glance through the list of appetizers, figure out what may or may not be available and end up with a plate of the vinegared green chiles called tsitsak, a slab of salty white cheese and perhaps a bowl of cold chicken in smooth, cool satsivi sauce made with finely ground walnuts, spices and reduced stock. (Are they using the traditional mortar and pestle here? I guess not.)
You could well allow yourself to be talked into a bowl of the sweet, light borscht or the herby lamb soup kharcho. At one point, whether bidden or not, somebody will bring over a big, floppy khachapuri, like a take-out pizza with the cheese on the inside. You may want to spring a few bucks for a bowl of the plum sauce tkemali to go with it, which isn't traditional but works pretty well in cutting through the richness of the gooey cheese. And then, inevitably, a plate of khinkali – clumsier and less boldly spiced than the equivalent dumplings up the street, with the meat compacted into a tight bolus rather than loose and gooshy, but khinkali nonetheless.
There are desserts here, but it should be noted that Old Village shares a mini-mall with the Papillon Bakery, where you can score hot ponchiks, Russian beignets, filled with things such as custard, blueberry jam and Nutella.