Comforting carbs: Georgian delicacies and tasty pasta

A look at two eateries- Deda; and Tiramisu Yael’s Italian Food.

Deda (photo credit: ADA ART)
(photo credit: ADA ART)
Deda is the name of a fast-growing chain of restaurants specializing in “original Georgian cuisine.” What started as a local “khachapuri house” in Bat Yam has now expanded to encompass six branches in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, including one outpost in Netanya and a pop up in the heart of the big city itself.
All of the recently familiar staples of the Georgian kitchen, as well as other less-well-known dishes, are featured in the extensive food menu, comprising no fewer than six sections plus three combination categories: Assortments (NIS 165-387), Popular (NIS 44-198) and Vegetarian/Vegan (NIS 38-52). The standard sections are Starters (NIS 15-48), First Courses (NIS 39-52), Soups (NIS 35), Grill (NIS 58-110), Main Courses (NIS 56-68) and Desserts (NIS 30-36).
We were invited to try a sampler put together for us by the marketing manager, which did not manage to represent every category (actually, only three of them), but still succeeded in hitting menu highlights and managed to extend over two meals.
Many of our dishes were on the basis of carbohydrates: baked khachapuri and fried or steamed variations of meat-filled doughs. The menu boasts three types of khachapuri, all resembling pizzas. Somewhat surprisingly, nowhere to be found is perhaps the most recognizable version – the adjaruli khachapuri, which comes in the shape of a boat and is filled with cheese and egg yolk. (Presumably, it is absent from the delivery menu because it does not travel well and will reappear when restaurants reopen.)
Our compensation was the megruli khachapuri, a disc with a crispy crust and base rendered soft by being smothered in multiple layers of native cheeses. While it looks rather naked in comparison to Italian pizzas, we found that we needed no topping to enhance the savory cheeses.
Next came chebureki and khinkali, served with an identical dipping sauce reminiscent of a mellow, smoky salsa. The former is like a sambusak: a turnover fried to a nice golden brown and filled with pleasantly seasoned meat, while the latter resembles a Chinese dumpling: steamed, pale and filled with the same meat mixture as the chebureki.
Walnuts are a very common ingredient in Georgian cuisine, and they make their appearance here in a manner I had yet to encounter: ground and sprinkled atop a salad of fresh cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, purple onion and red bell pepper, tossed in an olive oil dressing. This salad, known as dila, was a refreshing counterpoint to the carb-heavy first courses.
Another vegetable dish was ajapsandal, eggplant stewed with bell peppers, tomatoes, coriander and garlic – a zesty Georgian ratatouille that was equally good warm or cold.
Finally, our main course was plov, large chunks of slow-cooked, tender veal and rice – a great dish for a chilly winter’s eve.
Deda Georgian Cuisine.
Not kosher.
Six branches in central Israel.
Representative branch: 5 Giborei Israel, Netanya. Tel. 1-700-700-165. Online delivery menu:
Roman home cooking
Another home cooking-cum-delivery enterprise that has come to life during these frustrating times is Tiramisu Yael’s Italian Food, the brainchild of the talented Yael Soliani.
Yael, together with Roman compatriot Enzo Fornari, is the chef responsible for the tasty fillings in the focaccia sandwiches of Bocca Bocca, which was reviewed on these pages during the first lockdown (14.5.20).
Yael’s hearty food is cooked up in the kosher kitchen of her Ra’anana home, until she moves into the commercial kitchen she will soon be renting, thanks to the success of her enterprise.
Deliveries reach most major cities in Israel, with the fees (NIS 20-60) on a sliding scale, depending on distance from the Sharon.
The online menu, in English, comprises four categories and features one meat entrée and a few parve options, but mostly vegetarian (kosher dairy) dishes. The main courses are listed under Pastas, which are sold by weight (NIS 90 per kg.).
Pizzas, on the other hand, are individual-sized (10 for NIS 120), and included in the category Event Platters, which contain savory items like mini-sandwiches (25 for NIS 120) and sweets: cream puffs and mini-tarts (25 for NIS 120).
Other, larger desserts merit their own categories: Tarts (NIS 80-180) and Cakes (NIS 120 per kg.). Yael’s famous tiramisu is listed in this latter category.
The first dishes we sampled were an assortment of mini-sandwiches: tuna salad, smoked salmon and zucchini carpaccio, served on fresh, white rolls. All were quite good.
The main event was the mushroom lasagna, which came ready to heat and serve. In the time it took me to make a side salad, we were digging into the hearty pasta casserole studded with mushrooms and suffused with the richest béchamel-mozzarella sauce I have enjoyed in recent memory. (Tip: The written instructions were sufficient to heat the dish through, but if you want a golden brown finish, you will need to keep it in the oven longer.)
The second pasta dish was a generous tray of frozen ricotta-spinach ravioli, ready to be dropped into boiling water. As was the case with the lasagna, there was enough for more than a one meal. In this instance, we devoured the tiny, delicate pasta pockets with two different homemade sauces (pesto and rosé).
The sweets by Yael vie with her pastas for the title of stars of the show. Unfortunately, I have yet to taste her distinctive tiramisu cake, because I was intrigued by her lineup of ricotta tarts.
Eventually, I narrowed my choices to two: Nonna (Grandma) and ricotta and chocolate. Both are excellent tarts whose cheesecake-style filling is made with ricotta cheese, which turns out to be midway in texture between the dense New York cheesecake and the lighter standard Italian-style cheesecake.
The Nonna is sprinkled with a topping of pine nuts, while the chocolate in the latter is in the form of plump chocolate chips dotting the surface.
In the end, Yael also tempted me with a third variation: “If you want to taste something typical of Roman Jewish cuisine,” she said, “I suggest you try the sour cherries and almonds.”
The thin layer of sour cherry and ground almonds jam spread like frosting on the cheese filling rendered this the sweetest of the trio.
Tiramisu Yael’s Italian Food.
Tel. 053-533-3275.
Online (non-interactive) menu: