This has been a great year for Bangkok foodies who enjoy cuisine from around the world. Thus far we’ve had Bangkok’s first authentic Bhutanese and Russian restaurants open. Now with the opening of Argo (official Facebook page), Bangkok has its first restaurant serving authentic Georgian cuisine using homemade Sulguni cheese and ingredients direct from the markets of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi! Dried marigold, blue fenugreek, and a native strain of coriander called k’indzi are just a few of the spices that give Argo’s dishes a truly authentic Georgian flavor.
If you’re not familiar with Georgian cuisine, here’s a quick primer. The country of Georgia lies like a bullseye in the middle of the ancient spice route between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Its unique location has influenced its cuisine so that its dishes use a novel blend of herbs and spices in combinations not seen in the other individual regions. In a way, they pull the best of all the regions for their dinner table. Argo’s menu offers an excellent introduction to the cuisine with a variety of tasty dishes at affordable prices.
Let me show what I mean…
A Georgian Feast!
In advance of our visit I did a little research on Georgian cuisine so that I could focus on some of the must try dishes. I was very happy to find that Argo’s menu included these dishes. But no matter what you decide to order, one dish that must be included in every meal is khinkali.
Khinkali – Georgia’s GIANT Momos!
If you’re a fan of momo style dumplings, you’re going to love khinkali! These Khinkali (70 baht/piece) are oversized hand-rolled juicy dumplings filled with organic Australian beef and aromatic herbs like parsley and caraway seeds.
Unlike a regular momo, you’d never eat this with a fork. The savory juice inside is too precious to waste. The method for eating a khinkali is to hold the top by its “handle”, gently flip it, bite a small hole in the base, and then drink it up! You’ve done it right if you’ve emptied all of the juice and you’re not wearing it. For the small appetite one per person is enough, but if you’re a big fan of momos splurge and get more.
This is another must try dish that’s suitable for sharing. Acharuli Khachupuri (250 baht) is a dough formed into an open boat shape that’s filled with loads of homemade sulguni cheese which is baked then topped with a runny egg yolk. The bread texture is similar to a soft pretzel, soft but with a bit of chew. Sulguni cheese has a slight sour and moderately salty flavor, and is not very oily like other baked soft cheeses.
To eat it, cut it up in small sections and make sure to mop up that runny egg yolk!
Argo makes their sulguni cheese fresh from organic cow’s milk sourced from a local farm. You just can’t beat the taste of homemade fresh cheese…
Badrijani Nigvzit – A Delightful Walnut Dish!
This is one of those dishes that could easily turn me on to vegetarianism. The Badrijani Nigvzit (130 baht) is made by blending walnuts and garlic, with spices like coriander and blue fenugreek into a paste, then rolling it into slices of baked eggplant. The dish is topped with kernels of pomegranate to give it a sweet, fresh flavor punch.
I was really surprised with this dish. The filling has a rich, meaty texture similar to a pâté. It’s hard to believe there’s no meat in this dish whatsoever!
Satsivi – The Versatile Walnut
Walnuts seem to be a pretty popular ingredient in Georgian cuisine. “Tsivi” in Georgian means “cold“. So don’t be surprised when you receive this Satsivi (190 baht) dish and it’s NOT piping hot. It’s meant to be served cold.
The chicken is first parboiled then roasted so that it is tender. The Satsivi sauce is made from blendng crushed walnuts, coriander, blue fenugreek, cinnamon, marigold, red pepper, and garlic with water from the parboiled chicken. The sauce and chicken are then combined, heated to boiling, then allowed to completely cool. Excess walnut oil from the crushing process is used to top the dish.
Ajapsandali – A Different Ragout
Another vegetarian dish is the Ajapsandali (120 baht), a traditional Georgian vegetable ragout made with eggplant, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. What makes this savory vegetable starter unique is the khmeli-suneli seasoning, a Georgian staple spice blend made with blue fenugreek seeds and leaves, coriander, black peppercorns, and dried marigold petals. This special blend of spices adds so much depth and flavor to this simple vegetable dish.
Chakapuli – A Must Try Lamb Dish!
The Chakapuli (470 baht) dish is a must try for anyone that’s a fan of lamb. It’s so completely different than any other lamb dish I’ve ever tried, and it’s delicious. This dish is made with chunks of organic grass-fed lamb, which is slow cooked with green Georgian alucha plums, tarragon, mint, green onion, parsley, cilantro and white wine. The meat is succulent and tender, and the rich sauce has a slightly sour flavor that surprisingly works. What I loved about this dish was that it was so totally different than anything I’ve ever had before. I would absolutely get it again!
A Bit About Drinks
Argo has plenty of wine, beer, and full service bar drinking options. They also have a selection of red, white, rose, and sparkling Georgian wines to choose from ranging from 1,200 – 1,600 baht/bottle and 270 baht/glass. For this visit I really wanted to enjoy the meal with a Georgian red wine so I ordered a semi-sweet Ojaleshi (1,600 baht).
The Ojaleshi is a bit too sweet for my tastes, not great to drink on its own, but was actually delicious when accompanied with the meal. To be fair, I’m more of a heavy syrah or cabernet wine lover. I like a wine I have to chew on a bit. But for folks who enjoy sweeter vine libations this might just be a treat.
A Chat With The Owner…
While visiting I had the opportunity to chat with Anna, the proprietor of Argo. First off, the name. It has nothing to do with the 2012 blockbuster Ben Affleck movie. Rather the name comes from the famous Greek mythology, in which Argo was the ship on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed from Iolcos in Greece to Colchis (now the Black Sea coastal area of Georgia) to retrieve the Golden Fleece. It’s a fitting name for the Argo restaurant as they specialize in both Greek and Georgian cuisine.
Argo is Anna’s second venture as a restauranteur in Bangkok. Her first restaurant, Avra, was established 4 years ago as one of the first restaurants in Bangkok to offer authentic Greek cuisine. What differentiates Argo from Avra is its stronger focus on Georgian cuisine, and that the portions are sized to be more affordable, allowing patrons to explore the menu more fully.
Anna was born in Moscow. Her father is Russian, and her mother Greek (but having lived many years in Georgia). As a result her culinary experience growing up was a mix-up of Russian, Greek, and Georgian cuisine. When she moved to Bangkok 10 years ago she found all three dining options lacking. This encouraged her to open the Avra restaurant for Greek cuisine and after much success from that venture, Argo for Georgian cuisine. The recipes used are inspired by her mother’s home cooking, as well as famous dishes found in the coastal areas of Georgia. Anna considers herself the lead chef of Argo, but she also has a Georgian second chef operating in the kitchen. Their combined experience deliver truly authentic flavors.
Argo – A Georgian Getaway
Anna has put in a lot of effort to decorate the restaurant interior to create an atmosphere of a Georgian restaurant. The ambiance is filled with the sounds of Georgian folk music while adorning the walls are many Georgian carpets and paintings of famous Georgian scenes. It doesn’t take long to feel you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of Bangkok into something completely different.
That’s exactly how Anna wanted to present Argo to diners. Not only will you have a truly authentic flavor experience, you will also have a dining experience that feels like you’re in Georgia!
I’m hungry! Where is it?
Argo is located at the end of the second small alleyway on the right hand side of Sukhumvit Soi 8. For diners wanting one of the coveted booth spaces inside it’s best to make advance reservations. At the time of this writing the second floor is still under renovation but will soon provide more seating in a Greek style atmosphere (think of images of Santorini blue).
There is plenty of covered outside seating in front of the restaurant if you’re unable to dine inside. Though if you’re averse to dining outside when Bangkok’s at its hottest then I highly encourage you to make reservations for a booth!
I highly recommend Argo if you want to experience authentic Georgian cuisine. The flavors are on point, the prices are very reasonable, and the service is exceptional. If you should visit I’d love to hear your feedback. Please feel free to comment below or contact me directly!