>> Havlabar Restaurant | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Havlabar Restaurant

GEORGIA 🇬🇪
E. Broadway facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: There are currently no COVID safety protocols in place at this restaurant.

If you have lived in Los Angeles for a while and also been to the country of Georgia, you already know to lower expectations when it comes to the food of that nation. Since very few people from there have made their way to Southern California, the city's only taste of it comes from Armenians who love the food of Georgia, as all of the former Soviet countries do. Havlabar is no different, food for Armenians by Armenians.

What sets the restaurant apart from other places in Glendale and the Valley that serve Georgian food is an extensive menu that digs much further than the iconic dumplings and cheese bread that are well known to most. They also now have an Armenian insert page in the menu for those in the mood.

Pre-meal bread, butter, sour cream

Meals here start with a bang, a basket of freshly baked and still hot Georgian bread shows up with a bowl of sharp sour cream and a stick of butter. You want to enjoy this while it is still warm and it would be very easy to fill your stomach before any of the orders arrive. It is served with rustic Georgian-style wooden plates and spoons, like the rest of the meal.

If you have not filled yourself completely, start out with something cold as would be custom. Sacivi ($16, below) might rub some the wrong way with cold chunks of chicken served in a ground walnut sauce, but it is normally a stunner and delicious. Unfortunately the version served here on this day rubbed everyone the wrong way. Apparently they had run out of chicken and tried to pass a meat-free version off as proper.

Sacivi (chicken in walnut sauce with pomegranate)

The base of the dish here is very good, Georgian spices heavy on curry powder mix in with the walnuts and coriander, onion, and red chili pepper. Pomegranate seeds dust the top. This version became a dip for the bread rather than a meat dish like usual, and the table tried to make the best of it. Not a great way for a restaurant to ingratiate itself to customers.

Just as attitudes about lunch were feeling very low, a plate of the best khinkali ($10, below) in Los Angeles showed up. Besides khachapuri, these soupy dumplings might be the food Georgia is best known for outside of Georgia. The meat inside is a mix of beef and pork, uncooked until the dumplings are boiled, which makes all the fat get trapped inside as liquid.

Boiled khinkali (beef dumplings)

Khinkali show up to the table looking like a hot water bag, but are thick-skinned soupy delights to be approached with caution. Allow them to sit and cool for a bit, then turn sideways and bite a hole into the side. Suck out the fragrant herbal and fatty juices carefully then continue to the meat. Toss the doughy stump to the side when finished, these piles of tops are almost like a record of your achievements.

For those that have traveled to Georgia, distinct memories of going to bars full of men eating khinkali and drinking beer will never be forgotten. It is unclear which part of that combination is more important, as each man is putting back more than twice the amount of both that you ever could, with khinkali tops measured in the dozens after a meal is finished.

Chakapuli (lamb stew)

The chakhapuli ($24, above), a savory lamb stew that usually is a crowdpleaser is a definite let down here. It tastes and feels like white wine was replaced by olive oil in the cooking process. It is a very small and less than prime lamb chop used in the very small bowl. Skip this.

Thankfully the khachapuri was much more satisfying. While they do not make the Instagram-pleasing adjaruli version, you can get strong imeruli and megruli versions, the later of which has more cheese baked on top.

Imeruli khachapuri (baked cheese bread)

The "basic" imeruli khachapuri ($14, above) is thinly cooked and slightly charred on both sides. A dusting of cheese on the bread gives off a strong Cheez-It taste, but in a good way.

You can also try lobiani here, a bread that substitutes red kidney beans for cheese

📍 1143 E. Broadway, Glendale, Verdugos

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