Aragvi Georgian Cuisine, 318 Centre Road, Bentleigh. Phone: 9557 2893
By Erika Jonsson
Dumplings are one of my ultimate comfort foods.
Whether they are filled with beef, lamb or vegetables, small or large, I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like.
Crisp-based gyoza, wontons in broth, slurpy xiao long bao, Mongolian buuz – they are like friends who have never met; they share important traits but are beautiful for their differences.
My dumpling-making days petered out when my kids were born – it’s not easy to respond to a crying child when my hands are covered in raw meat and my dough is in danger of drying out.
So if I’m out for lunch and can enjoy an expert’s touch, I don’t think twice.
We found ourselves on the other side of town recently after a foray to the Glen Eira Sports and Aquatic Centre recently to apply a fundamental tenet of parenting – if you want happy kids, just add water.
And water slides if possible.
Mission accomplished, it was time to add food.
“What kind of food are we having for lunch?” Joe asked from the back seat.
“I’ll give you a clue,” my husband replied. “The capital city is Tbilisi.”
My tastebuds were tingling at the thought of lots of bread, meat – and dumplings.
Aragvi in Bentleigh did not disappoint in any way – in fact, we are already considering a return trip.
Delicious hunks of warm bread with a side of unsalted butter started to fill the void ahead of the arrival of a bowl of borlotti bean stew, or lobio.
I was surprised when Joe wasn’t interested, but Hugh loved it, as did my husband and I.
Walnuts and coriander were the dominant flavours in a dish that was somehow both simple and complex.
Next out were the dumplings – Joe chose chicken over pork and beef.
Our waitress gave us a quick tutorial on how to eat Georgian-style dumplings, which were quite large and shaped almost like mushrooms.
Use the stem of the dumpling like a handle to allow you to bite the side then suck out the broth.
Continue until you are left with just the dough handle, which is traditionally left behind.
The flavour was quite mild and the seasonings delicate. They were a hit for our hungry family, especially covered in black pepper.
Our next dish was grilled chicken kababi rolls with adjika chilli sauce, salad and housemade chips.
This turned out to be my favourite dish of the day – the colours were vibrant; the chilli sauce sang with heat; the skinless sausages were perfectly cooked; the salad was zingy and fresh; and the chips were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Not yet sated, we shared some delicious cakes, including a walnut sponge and a pastry filled with almond-flavoured custard.
My latte could’ve been a bit stronger, but that’s a small criticism in the context of a really memorable meal.
Aragvi was quiet during our weekday lunchtime visit – I’m not sure why.
We don’t usually travel far beyond Footscray for food, but this gem is worth the drive.