We chose Aragvi for a family gathering on a Thursday night. It is not a type of place you would just randomly walk into: located in a small strip mall on Sheppard, it is not immediately noticeable when you drive by it. At the same time, the promise of authentic Georgian (not US Georgian like chicken and corn on a cob, rather the ex-Soviet Georgia origin) cuisine enticed us.
The restaurant space is elongated with a small curtained store front. We had a reservation for nine and got a stretched table next to the window. It is a bit cramped inside, to be honest. The interior is simple, reminded me of a banquet hall - chairs dressed, artwork on the walls and yet a TV in the corner. I'd say, the total capacity of this place is about thirty.
The simple menus are loaded with traditional Georgian dishes as well as some more conservative options like house, Greek or Caesar salads. Our waitress attended to us promptly and provided some suggestions to start. She assumed we can speak Russian - a small community restaurant we thought. We chose the appetizer platter and a large hachapuri (cheese pastry).
The platter arrived very promptly and we started exploring the assortment. It had pkhali, izpanahi, eggplant rolls, marinated peppers, mushrooms and babagaoush. Izpanahi became an instant favorite. It is a flavorful Georgian spinach salad with ground walnut, spices and herbs. An absolute delight with their freshly baked bread. We asked for a few portions of sacivi salad (cold chicken in walnut sauce) as well – a worthwhile dish. Just as everyone arrived, the hachapuri (cheese pastry arrived). It was mouth watering - served as a fresh breaded, heavy cheese based pizza.
We also decided to try their harcho soup, which ended up a bit too spicy for our taste, although it was definitely a hearty meal with loads of veal and rice. This soup can make an entrée of its own, considering the size of the portion. A great choice for under $10 if you like spicy! Lamb lula kebab with rice was our second main dish. The grilled meat was very flavorful with some smoky notes and herbaceous hints coming through. The white rice was not the best choice in retrospect. It was a bit too plain; their roasted garlic potatoes might have made a better selection.
A bottle of Mukuzani semi-dry wine topped our order list. The wine is lightly oaked, but ultimately not too memorable. Most popular Georgian wines are of a sweet variety such as Kvantchara, Kintzmarauli or Alazankaya Dolina -Aragvi has all.
Our table also ordered tarhun juice. We had to try it, due to its washing-liquid look. It turned out to be a pleasant anise-flavored lemonade.
We would recommend this place for a taste of something different. The restaurant is popular with locals (it was full at some point of the evening even on Thursday night) and the food is aplenty. The dishes are heavier than usual on average, but make for a great dinner alternative. One more option is to order some takeout to try it out prior to plunging all in. There were several takeout orders coming through as we enjoyed our meals. Our own leftovers made for a great lunch the next day too – the portions are generous.