A journey from a love affair with processed foods to a love affair with cheese.
I can’t remember if I’ve written before about how much I adore the shuk. I don’t totally love shopping in the shuk because I get easily annoyed with crowds, but I love wandering around there and looking at all the things I could buy. I used to go there for lunch every Friday, to a now-defunct Indian restaurant at a time when said restaurant was one of the only non-kubbeh/hummus eateries in the market itself. Now I go much more sporadically, but I don’t love it any less. However, I foresee a lot of trips to Mahane Yehuda in my future, given the explosion of restaurants that have sprouted there in the past few years: two fish and chips shops, tapas, pasta, bars, sandwiches, cafes, Indian, fancy ice cream, kubbeh, and the subject of this post – a Georgian bakery.
This past Friday we decided to go to the shuk to get some ingredients for our Shabbat cooking and then to grab a bite. After picking up a bunch of lentil-type products and veggies, we stopped at the Teller stand to grab two loaves of bread. In my humble opinion, Teller makes the best bread in the city, but only if you buy it fresh from the shuk. (Their loaves are available in many supermarkets but they’re not as good packaged.) After the bread-buying, we were ready for a snack.
For this week’s culinary adventure we decided on Hatchapuria, a Georgian bakery that opened a few years ago, located in the Iraqi shuk, just down the street from Ichikanda and Mousseline and catty-corner from Jacko’s Street. The bakery itself is tiny, tiny – but very new and clean. At least on Fridays, it is therefore quite crowded. They have a few small tables inside and a few more tables outside. You can order take away, and they also appear to do deliveries. We were there to sit though.
Hatchapuria offers a menu of seven baked goods, which they advertise as “the art of Georgian baking.” They claim everything is made on-site with real Georgian cheese. The menu comes with a disclaimer that because they cook in the ancient traditional manner, it might take awhile for the food to reach your plate. We heard the people before us in line order something that they were told would take half an hour. Lacking patience, we ordered the magruli, which basically turned out to be bread (hatchapuri) topped with cheese and baked till it was crisy. (There was also an option to order a magruli filled with cheese and spinach.) Other things that we did not order include cheese-filled filo dough, atchruli (sunken bread filled with cheese and topped with a sunny-side up egg), and imruli (cheese-filled bread).
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My only prior experience with Georgian food was at Racha, a meat restaurant in town. And I have to admit, I didn’t love the food there. What I can now say is that I liked the magruli more than I liked the meat food at Racha (though we had these meat dumplings there that were pretty good), but I don’t think Georgian cuisine is among my favorites. This is on me though, not Hatchapuria (or Racha).
The magruli was served with a pickled salad, so in total our dish consisted of sweet and savory (magruli), sour and spicy (salad). Georgian cheese, it turns out, is like feta in that it is soft and salty. The magruli was pretty good (and piping hot), but I’m not a huge fan of salty cheese.
One other note: When we asked for cutlery, we were told they would give us forks for the salad, but we weren’t allowed to use them on the magruli. Magruli, it turns out, is a fingers-only food. That I could get behind.
Kosher and suitable for vegetarians. Not too suitable for gluten-free, but there are a few options.