This week, I joined two friends at Marani, located in Rego Park, NY. I found it to be quite a cool eating spot. The dining room is low key; yet there are linen napkins. Ana, the owner, is welcoming and helpful as are the rest of the staff. While the menu you see online lists many options, the menu you actually receive has each dish marked “GF” (gluten-free) or V (vegan) where applicable. Most of them were, in fact, marked “GF”. Ana explained that they realized it was more efficient to mark it on the menu than have to answer questions about each recipe. The Shotis Puri, a kind of Georgian bread that is baked in house, is not gluten-free; but the Mjadi, fried Georgian corn bread, is – so there is something for everyone!
Despite the fact that Marani means “wine cellar” in Georgian – and they have an extensive selection of wines, liquors and specialty drinks – we were all teetotalers at this dinner. On the other hand, we ordered as many dishes as could fit on the table!
We had to have both freshly made breads They smelled delicious as only freshly baked bread can. The sampler we ordered consisted of Spinach with Walnuts, Eggplant with Walnuts, and Green Beans with Walnuts. Each one was beautifully presented and delicious. One of us ordered Asparagus Soup, which came out piping hot in a large bowl. Three spoons dove into the soup.
Main courses were:
Chanahi – beef braised with eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. What the description does not tell you is that cilantro is a major flavor component. Beware if you are not a fan of that herb! The beef was soft as butter and there was enough in that bowl to feed an army!
Branzino with tomato, basil, bok choy, and rice.
Kebobs. Both the chicken breast and mixed lamb and beef options were perfectly spiced and delicious.
Naturally, we had to order sides so we had Buckwheat with Spinach and Sautéed Mushrooms and Potatoes with Mushrooms. By the way, every dish I’ve mentioned so far is gluten-free. Desserts were on the house! Ana brought us a wonderful Chocolate Mousse (GF) and a Berry Pudding. She was even prepared with small plastic containers and a shopping bag for leftovers!
Suffice it to say, we all had a wonderful time at Marani. The staff was great and the food was fresh, delicious and reasonably priced. We each paid about $56 (including tip) for all the food mentioned above.
One more thing! The dining room serves meat, but there is a bakery downstairs that sells four different kinds of Georgian Cheese bread called Khachapuri. It is not to be missed!
Photo credit: @maraninyc