Away from old Tbilisi and Tbilisi Old Town, Shavi Lomi seems to sit in a location that is not exactly surrounded by a multitude of restaurants, but then again that is its charm. If you have done your homework well enough to locate this endearing beauty, a short walk away from the hipster Davit Agmashenebeli Avenue restaurant and bar strips or getting off at Marjanishvili metro station (one stop after Rustaveli station), with good navigation snaking through some alley ways, this haven is unmissable by its eye-catching "street" art - on seeing this wonderful folk art painting of a dining scene on what appears to be a garage door, you instantly realize that this has to be the main entrance to the restaurant. Destination arrived!
Shavi Lomi is literary translated as “Black Lion” in Georgian which is an homage to one of Georgian's self-taught native painters, Niko Pirosmani who posthumously rose to prominence renowned for his art work of animal paintings. Hence, the courtyard is enclosed by old red brick towering high walls with murals of the black lion that can’t be missed. The “Shavi Lomi” also appears almost everywhere in quite a dramatic way artistically, although you may not always spot it, from the lions head above a fireplace, to a painting sprayed on a terrace wall and is not easy to forget and makes a perfect marketing ploy to instantly evoke a memory.
You then enter into an upper level of an open courtyard and are instantly smitten. The team behind the show evidently has quite an artistic aesthetic in taste and plenty of space to create a dining paradise. Inside are rooms to captivate your attention and you are spoiled for choice, with lots of intimate dining sections and tables well spread out.
Choose between the garden-facing main dining room is best to watch the world go by and we were dining on what we thought was a quiet Sunday evening, so initially we had the run of the place in terms of where we would like to sit, but as the evening progressed, it was packed. It is quite apparent this house has a history and there is art and greenery everywhere with the tasteful interior decoration to make you realize you have definitely chosen the right place to have a memorable night out.
We started with a glass of the limited production of 2017 dry amber Ethno Mtsvane – Rkatsiteli white wine. With only 700 bottles being produced with the bonus of being chemical free and no sulfites added. The grapes are hand picked and pressed, fermented and matured in Qvevri and committed to top quality from the vineyard in Kakheti region, with the unique micro-climate of village Manavi providing great soil, sun, love and passion which comes out in this elegant and genuine wine.
Light, minty and delicious! This lightly creamy “soko” – herbed mushroom recipe cooked with ginger, white wine, sautéed with onion, garlic, butter in low heat. Chicken broth was then added and enlightened by lemon juice, thickened by flour perfectly judged to give that well balanced appetizing flavour on the tongue. The big “pot” of soup was generous in portion, filled with plenty of mushrooms and presented on a wooden board accompanied by homemade thinly sliced light and fluffy bread. Delightful!
Walnut paste is essential in Georgian cuisine and commonly used as dipping sauce, dressing or a base sauce for many dishes. The eggplant was grilled to a deep smoky flavour, subtly twisted with the whole stem remaining as a garnish well paired with the thick and creamy mutabbal like texture of walnut paste sauce presented on a retro green plate. Rich on the palate and quite satisfying! This signature dish is a must try!
Another classic traditional Georgian dish not to be missed! This generous portion of big bird easily serves two and is seriously addictive. The Chkmeruli or Shkmeruli (the name of this famous dish in Georgian) takes a while to prepare and it may take up to 20-30 minutes where both sides of the chicken are fried and then is cooked over low heat in the covered pan with milk and garlic butter sauce. The flavour is rich and the chicken is tender and juicy, with all the ingredients it is an elevated dish with superb flavours.
A glass of 2017 Revolution red wine was introduced to pair with our meat dishes. As the bottle suggests, it is the “Revolution in Evolution” made from Saperavi grapes with the auto-generated signature by the winemaker Giorgi Solomnishvli on the minimalistic label. The wine is well structured and expressive. Deep black-red in colour with classy aromas with berries and the living forest floor, deep and concentrated on the palate and well balanced with a fine texture.
Georgians seem to have that knack of creating a destination salad! This green salad comes with minted Tushetian guda cheese – a sheep cheese produced in the remote Tusheti region of Georgia (the raw milk is ripened in a sheepskin sack that is turned inside out so that the wool is in direct contact with the ripening cheese). You surely cannot pass up on this salad. It has an overall savoury/spicy taste with a lemon dressing and the local cheese is a ‘game-changer’ ingredient. Quite an exclusive mountain sheep cheese that you can hardly get elsewhere in Tiblisi but the Black Lion certainly has its way.
The pork is served with large potato wedges, beetroot salad, sliced onion rings and pickled flowers presented on an oval plate. This Georgian comfort food dish is packed with flavour, rustic and true to its ingredients used. We loved it!
Is it a Georgian specialty? May be not! But it was a quintessential rendition of one of our favourite cakes. The creamy topping was not overly sweet and the carrot marmalade colorfully garnished on top, there is a hint of spice in the sponge cake mix to delight. Worth a try!
As in most restaurants in Georgia entering the tech savvy generation (so are many big cities), QR code menu is unavoidable provided your device has a prominent wi-fi access that would help to speed up your browsing. Pictures do speak a thousand words to help you understand what a dish looks like or tempting you to order from its inviting visual especially when strange names are spelled out on the menu even it is in English yet lost in translation which does happen. Unfortunately, no visuals are on the digital menu and could lead many non-Georgian speaking diners to frustration and annoyance. The service in the evening during our visit was prompt and attentive, somehow lacking of that warm and heartfelt touch, although we were offered suggestions but was in quite a robotic approach.
With new innovation injected over time, you’ll never get bored. The ever-changing dining scene in Tbilisi evolves quite rapidly and partly thanks to the great influx of tourism together with some new ideas brought into the country. Despite the out-of-the-way location, their reservations always pile up by a large amount of local diners, expats and tourists alike. Shavi Lomi already created a household name and no doubt is one of those most talked-about and recommended restaurants by the local frequent diners, not only for its terrific courtyard garden dining but also its vivid and artistic interior fit-out and a night out of enjoyable wine and dine.
Design & Decor: 5/5
Food & Beverage: 4.5/5
Value For Money: 4/5