The running joke about the Uzbek kebab places in Rego Park is that they’re all pretty much the same restaurant. Sure some might have slightly surlier service than others or make a specialty of chebureks, , but they’re all basically about grilled meat—beefchicken, and lamb–on flat swordlike skewers. So I was intrigued when I heard about Marani, a relatively new Georgian joint.
Ever since I read about the decadent adajaruli khachapuri being served at Brooklyn Bread House in Sheepshead Bay and at Oda House in the East Village, Georgian food has been a feverish blip on my radar. So I was especially excited to learn of a restaurant right in my neighborhood that served the mythical cheese and egg bread.
When I got there though I found out that Marani, a strictly kosher establishment, has two kitchens and dining rooms. Marani’s meat portion consists of an expansive dining room on the first floor that serves a full range of kebabs as well as other more Georgian specialties. On my first visit I dined in Marani’s meat section. I’ve had plenty of kebabs in the hood so I opted for the Georgian specialty chicken tabaka ($15) instead. The garlicky fried chicken served over a bed of fries and accompanied with pickled green tomatoes did not disappoint.
Having gotten the chicken out of the way I returned to Marani for the egg, or rather the egg and cheese in the form of adjaruli xachapuri ($13). The restaurant’s dairy portion resides in the basement, and dining there is like eating in someone’s kitchen. When I ordered my xachapuri, as they spell it at Marani,the gal behind the counter rolled out the dough and popped it in the oven. “Ten minutes,” she said.
It’s probably the longest ten minutes I’ve ever waited for food. “Do you want butter on it?” my new friend asked when she removed the eye-shaped bread from the oven. After she daubed it all over with butter I eagerly took the adjaruli to my table. A lake of molten sulguni cheese comprised the white of the eye, the pupil a sunny raw egg. This I soon mixed with the bubbling cheese and butter. Tearing off pieces of the cheese filled crust and dredging them through the molten lagoon of cheese and eggs was one of the most decadent food experiences I’ve ever had in Rego Park. It was blisteringly hot, salty, and rich. I’m proud to say that I ate about 95% of the thing before I lapsed into a dairy coma.
Marani, 97-26 63rd Rd., Rego Park, (718) 569-0600