Bohema: The Best of All Worlds

As a former resident of Tbilisi’s Abanotubani neighborhood, I don’t have to be sold on its charms. The slice of the old city lies just across the river from the Mtekhi and is nestled underneath the Narikala fortress. The smell of sulfur serenades your senses while you stroll through bucolic Heydar Aliyev Park. If there’s a place to feel sentimental while enjoying all of the comforts of the present day, it’s here.

The district has major nostalgia appeal, but diners can find much more than standard Georgian fare. Bohema is a prime example. This restaurant markets itself as “Georgian new fusion” and this claim is immediately born out in the décor. Patrons are treated to a prime view of the Narikala Fortress whether choosing to sit inside or out on the veranda (I chose the former; it was a chilly night). The setting couldn’t be more Georgian, but the interior décor is overtly modernistic. The entryway is all glass, but instead of looking down from a Manhattan skyscraper I was looking up at the Narikala.

Bohema’s management has made an effort to cultivate a lively aesthetic. A DJ performs two nights per week; Friday features a saxophonist; and on Saturday nights delighted patrons are treated to a live band. Notable Georgian jazz musician David Evgenidze has even performed there.

“Fusion” defines all things Bohema. The cuisine blends Georgian and European dishes with a few Asian flavors thrown in. With too many options to comprehend, I opted for several appetizers rather than a true main course (though the steaks did look divine).

I started with the Elarji balls. This traditional Georgian appetizer is fried cornflower stuffed with cheese and topped with an almond sauce. It was delicate, delicious and a perfect prelude to what came next: the glazed shrimp with tkemali. An example of East meets West, the Asian glazed shrimp built a bridge of flavor with the traditional Georgian sauce.

Next came the Imeretian khachapuri (with so many contrasting flavors I felt the need to go with at least one tried and true option!). This I matched with the steak salad—marinated steak, arugula, parmesan, and almonds.

The drinks menu was also lavish, with a number of Georgian red and whites, as well as some French wines and the full array of cocktails—a glass of wine will cost 8-10 lari with a bottle coming in at about 140. My server recommended the Caipirinha—the most popular cocktail among customers. But it being a chilly night, I opted for a Manhattan. I’m not sure which whiskey the bartender used, but it worked to wash down the flavorful meal.

I’m not a dessert enthusiast, but I took a glance at the menu. Items of intrigue included the “exotic red cake” (mascarpone with a cherry glaze) and the “Napoleon.” An ode to Bohema’s European inspirations, the latter dessert is panna cotta with cherry and blueberry topping.

The unique menu combined with excellent service (by Tbilisi standards) and a prime view of the city add up to an outing that isn’t cheap. Choosing Bohema for your next night out means choosing to spend more than you would at a typical Georgian restaurant. But given the fantastic fusion menu and upscale aesthetic, you will get what you pay for.

Joseph Larsen

07 April 2016 20:21