Best eastern eats - Caucasian cuisine in St. Petersburg

The Russian equivalent of Indian food for the British or Mexican for Americans, the rich cuisines of the Caucasian nations - Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan - are little known outside the former Soviet Union. However, they are well worth discovering, and St. Petersburg has several first-class restaurants to help make the introduction, many of which are also excellent value.

At a crossroads between European, Turkic and Persian culinary traditions, the Caucasus region is richly provided with fruit, vegetables, spices, meat and even fish, producing a diverse cuisine that should appeal equally to vegetarians and confirmed carnivores. Georgia is the country most famous for its food, as well as for being probably the oldest wine-growing region in the world, but many dishes such as khachapuri cheese bread and khinkali steamed dumplings are made with subtle variations all across the region, while skewers of grilled meat, thick spicy broths, and tart fruit sauces are common to all national traditions.

Georgian restaurants were popular even during the Soviet era, so many of St. Petersburg's Caucasian eateries are among the oldest in the city. They tend to be fairly low-key, local establishments, and some of the best Caucasian cuisine in St. Petersburg can be found in quite shabby surroundings, often at remarkably low prices.

Selected Caucasian restaurants:

Caucasian, Georgian, Azerbaijani $
Ostensibly a Georgian restaurant, but run by Azerbaijanis (and with a kitchen staff mostly from Central Asia), this small unassuming restaurant offers a great mix of firm favourites (including excellent khachapuri and dolma) and more unusual dishes such as the excellent gavurma, a sort of filo pastry pie packed with meat, fruit and herbs.
Caucasian, Georgian $$
Dating back several decades, this Georgian restaurant next to Sytny Market on the Petrograd Side has long been popular among locals and Caucasian market traders. Taken over by one of St. Petersburg's most prestigious restaurant groups, it has been reinvented as a more upmarket dining experience, while retaining its historic atmosphere and good cheer.