Yep. The headline is totally meant to entice you to click and open the article, much like a late-night infomercial on a $69.99 kitchen appliance that you don’t need still draws you in to waste your time and watch. The only difference, of course, is that reading DKLoMakan is ALWAYS time well spent.
I AM getting married though, very very soon, and before the crazy busyness of that day plus the days after (we’re also purchasing a house), I thought I’d try to sneak in an article. It may be a while before the next one, though hopefully not! And I (not biased) think it’s one of my more unique ones, owing to the fact that for the first time in both our lives, WW and I dined in a Georgian restaurant! As the title of this post implies, it’s NOT the one with Atlanta and Peachtree TV. It’s the one that used to be a Communist Soviet Republic. Fun times!
Living and hanging out in Markham, along with being BlogTO’s de facto suburban Asian writer has made me at times focus too much on Asian food (of which there is a LOT). Hence why I try to use opportunities like this blog to branch out and sample other types of cuisines. But up until now, most of my non-Oriental adventures have centred around rather “mainstream” dining, like Italian or Continental Western food. Not that there’s anything wrong with them (I love them dearly) but last week I thought let’s try something REALLY different. And that’s where we ended up: a small restaurant stacked full of Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Tripadvisor recommendations in a dingy little shopping plaza, named Aragvi.
We were shocked at how small the space was upon arrival. We arrived a bit early for our reservation, and realized at once that that was a bit of a mistake. There can’t have been more than 40-50 seats in the restaurant (and that’s being VERY generous in estimating) and there’s very little space between the tables. It’s as if the place was designed by the same obsessive interior designers responsible for ensuring that every Chinese restaurant has absolutely no space between the seats. Then again, that would maybe explain why this place is rather popular with Asians…
I’m not kidding. It’s very fascinating to see that this place was featured in a Chinese newspaper (whose article hung proudly above our dining spot) and that, in the middle of our dining, a huge family of around 10 Chinese people walked in and sat at one of the larger tables there that they reserved. Another smaller Asian family came in towards the end of our meal as well. I always thought that this place’s clientele would be mostly East European, but I was delighted to see how wrong I was. Only in Toronto, kids, and another reason why I love this odd city of ours.
The lady (owner?) greeted us warmly and was very surprised to know that we didn’t waste too much time ordering. Through the power of Yelp, I pretty much identified what we should try. And thus we opened with the khinkali dumplings, and continued with the chanakhi stew and kiev chicken. Pretty much no-brainers, really. I was curious about the egg and butter bread, the hachapuri, but I thought we ordered enough for today. Perhaps next time.
The khinkali arrived first. And true to its advertised form, they very much resemble one of WW’s favourite Chinese dishes: the xiaolongbao. The differences? These were large (“dalongbao” lol #chinesepun #sorryforthelameattempt) and the shells were pretty thick. They were nice though, it felt very meaty and chewy, with a nice flavour inside. Think of a regular xiaolongbao flavour, but with stronger herb-like seasonings. WW commented that they used quite a bit of parsley, which was indeed evident in many of our dishes. Overall, a nice start, and it was cool to see a slightly different take on an old favourite, not unlike spotting a familiar dish in a foreign country and found out that the locals simply have a different way to prepare it.
Then the chanakhi arrived, and my Lord was it delicious. The veal was super tender, and simmered in a velvety smooth stew that contained more herbs than you can throw at the kitchen sink. I’m terrible at identifying ingredients, but there was definitely a lot of eggplant in that stew, along with various other spices that are rarely used in Asian kitchens. Delicious though, warm and filling, and I really wished they had some steamed rice (BAD DKLO! NO! DOWN!) to go with it. Alas, we got some bread instead which were pretty nice (freshly baked!) but nothing too special. My only complaint is that I wish there was more veal in the dish, and it was so delicious I wish the whole thing was a bit bigger. These are what I would call “good” problems though, so no issues there.
The chicken kiev was….so-so. The batter felt a bit overly thick and the chicken inside, while tender, felt lacking in taste. There was a faint feel of buttery flavour but it was too subtle and was overshadowed by the punchy taste of the chanakhi. We did get two pieces though, so that was a bit nice. The Armenian (yeah…lolwut?) potatoes that came as a side though, were divine. Slathered in a salty garlicky dressing and with a side of homemade ketchup, they were definitely one of the most interesting takes on “fries as a side” that I’ve ever had. Wonderful.
I would definitely recommend this restaurant, especially for those who are looking for those hidden gems in Toronto. Let’s face it, Toronto is never going to be the place that has the fanciest modern-looking restaurants with interesting gimmicks. That’s pretty much Asia’s monopoly. But what it excels in are small, unknown places offering delicious dishes that you would almost never find anywhere else in the world outside of its native country. And Aragvi is one of those places. Not the cheapest of places, but one worth trying, especially if (like me), there’s little chance of you going to the actual country itself.
But for the love of God, MAKE A RESERVATION.
–Final verdict: Mari Makan!
832 Sheppard Avenue West
Toronto, ON M3H 2T3