Tiflisi is a family-run Georgian restaurant in the Beaches that has been showcasing residents to the wonderful world of Georgian cuisine since 2020.
This is quite a special feat if you know that almost all of the city's Georgian joints are outside the downtown core, meaning you no longer have to trek to treat your palate.
Tiflisi is run by the Pkhakadze family, who have literally decades of restaurant experience in their blood. Their grandfather had a chain of successful Georgian restaurants in Ukraine dating back to the '90s.
"When we came here to Canada, we always wanted to make sure that Canadians knew about Georgian cuisine, Georgian culture, everything about Georgian culture," says Tamara Pkhakadze who runs the front-of-house with her brother. Pkhakadze's mother and father are the ones in the kitchen crafting their home country's dishes.
Because Georgia is situated between Europe and Asia, Pkhakadze says centuries of immigration and history across 12 climate zones has created a wonderfully unique cuisine where "there is something for everyone."
Dishes like the Badrijani ($15.80) which is grilled eggplant with walnut paste, and Khachapuri ($20.50), a leavened boat bread filled with cheese, are all-time customer favourites. However, the menu stretches far beyond this.
You won't want to miss the Mstvadi ($21), which features spiced and grilled pork skewers with onions and pomegranate. It's with a side of adjika, a colourful sauce made with peppers, tomatoes, carrots, apples and garlic.
The hearty dish comes with a side of rice, pickles, carrots and cabbage. The latter are perfect palate cleansers.
A similar dish is Tiflisi's own BBQ plate ($19.50 to $21) which consists of beef, pork or chicken and lamb skewers with a side of fragrant, wedge-like potatoes. The dish comes to the table piping hot and is served with the same punchy adjika sauce.
Of course, a Georgian feast is not complete without a hot plate of fresh traditional khinkali ($17.50), a.k.a. Georgian soup dumplings.
Made with a mix of beef and pork, Pkhakadze instructs me to pick up the dumpling by its handle to flip it upside down before taking a bite of the skin to drink the soup inside. I'm instructed to eat the rest of the pillowy creation after that process.
Tiflisi's menu items come from across Georgia based on the recipes Pkhakadze's family has collected from each region.
The family tries to make these dishes as close to what you would find in Georgia which means importing spices like khmeli suneli (mix of coriander, celery, basil, dill, parsley, fenugreek, bay, mint and marigold), utshko (blue fenugreek) and svanuri marili (seasoning salt) for as traditional an experience as possible.
"We do bring a lot of our food from Georgia, especially the spices from our region, the middle region of Georgia," said Pkhakadze's mother Eteri.
This also means creating a special dough recipe for the khachapuri, which Eteri said had to be tweaked to match with the cheeses found here in Canada.
Tiflisi also boasts of a wide selection of Georgian wines. Fact: Georgia is known as the "cradle of wine" after archaeologists traced the world’s first known wine creation to the region, sometime around 6,000 BC.
Not only is the food wonderful and will certainly warm you up on a chilly day, but the cozy atmosphere - its wood-cabin theme, Georgian art pieces, and traditional music playing overhead - is something totally different from what usual Toronto diners are exposed to.
You'll find Tiflisi in the Beaches just a block away from Kew Gardens on Queen St. E.