U Pirosmani is a Georgian restaurant we liked to go to in Moscow. It was located across the street from the Novodevichi Convent. The convent was originally built in 1524 as a fortress on the banks of the Moscow River. It housed nuns and members of the royal family and at one point was used as a military hospital. In 1922 the Soviets closed it down and turned it into a museum but in 1994 religious services resumed. If you managed to get a seat by the window at U Pirosmani, you had a magical view of the monastery, especially in winter when it was covered in snow.
The atmosphere at U Pirosmani was warm and welcoming. The ceiling was all wood and the walls were covered with artwork, many of them copies of the famous Georgian painter of the same name, Nico Pirosmani. The tables were set formally with crisp white linen. If you stayed late into the night it would really get going with live traditional music and a raucous crowd drinking shots of vodka. It was popular with tourists, visiting dignitaries and famous people both from Russia and abroad.
We only went there when we had visitors or were with a group. It was a bit touristy but people enjoyed themselves and the food was good. The owner was Tornike Kopaleishwili, a handsome Georgian with a brush mustache. It was one of the first private restaurants in Moscow opening in 1988. His vision was to make it a business club where people from all over the world could meet in a relaxed environment.
Khachapuri is a thin chewy Georgian bread stuffed with cheese. I had many variations while living in Moscow. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was awful. The khachapuri at U Pirosmani was always good and I made a point of ordering it. I also ate a lot of shashlik (kabob) in Moscow and it was usually my staple at U Pirosmani. Chunks of lamb marinated overnight on a skewer, grilled and served over rice.
The Georgians make beautiful eggplant dishes. One is Eggplant Chanakh. It consists of layers of eggplant, potato, tomato, and a mixture of parsley, coriander, celery, and green pepper baked in the oven. Another one is similar called Chankh but it must be cooked in individual clay pots. Finely chopped pieces of meat are placed on the bottom, then eggplant with onions, garlic and basil, next come tomatoes, and it is topped with potato all baked in the oven for about an hour and a half. Delicious!
My last visit to U Pirosmani was with a group of people from the US who were working on a project with my husband. We were having a great time and at the end of the meal one of the women started taking pictures. She wanted one of the whole group so she asked a man at a neighboring table if he would take the picture. He agreed but he had some trouble with the camera. Jokingly she showed him how to use it and said “it’s not rocket science”. He smiled sheepishly and said that was a good thing because he was a rocket scientist. Everybody at his table had a good laugh. They were a group from NASA.
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.