Update: this restaurant has since moved to Tel Aviv
In the heart of the Russian Compound on Rehov Havazelet is Racha, a family-run authentic Georgian restaurant, named after the region in Georgia the family are from. Much of the furniture and decor was brought over from their family homes in Georgia and the restaurant has a definite European feel to it.
Mother Tina is the inspiration behind the menu and has trained her son as the chef. Daughter Lily is the manageress and greets diners with a warm Georgian welcome. The menu has a huge variety of dishes so ask the waiters for their recommendations but here are some of my own.
For starters, I loved the Ispanakhis, spinach tapenade with walnuts in wine vinegar (24₪); Patrigianni, eggplant wrapped around a walnut and herb paste (27₪) and Kinzmari, sliced chicken breast in a ground nut sauce (22₪). There were lots of other salads dishes to choose from and you order a selection of 7 starters for 114₪ or 14 starters for 224₪. The homemade bread was delicious and the pastries were nice but not so different from meat burekas and cigarim except for the Tkhemali sauce made from green plums.
The main course options include numerous beef and lamb stews, including gizzards which I was not brave enough to try. On recommendation I tried the Chanakhi, layers of lamb with potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs – I found it very fatty. I can recommend Khalia, beef casserole with pomegranate and onion sauce, served with rice or mashed potato and the Entrecote, grilled with Georgian spices.
Even if you have eaten too much at this point in the meal, you cannot leave without trying the selection of homemade Georgian cookies. Made by Tina herself, they were among the most delicious cookies I have had.
Racha also has a great selection of wines, we had a delicious bottle of Sandro by the Alexander Winery, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. . For an authentic Georgian experience, as for a shot of Chacha – traditionally drunk from a horn or “shofar”, this Georgian vodka which is a type of brandy is once again homemade.
I have been a few times, for an intimate meal and a group celebration. It is a large restaurant and it gets very busy so do not go if you are looking for a quiet romantic meal! There is nothing gourmet about this place but it is good honest home-cooked style food. The restaurant attracts many local Georgians who seem to all know each other and late at night, after a few shots of Chacha, they often have live music and all start dancing, so if you are looking for a new experience, head down there and join in the fun!