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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GOURMET'S NOTEBOOK: Mama Zoya




I love it when a restaurant changes location. Not only are the crowds temporarily diminished while the masses reorient their taste bud compasses, but I get the chance to review a place that was too established and well-known to merit the space before. In this case, it is a pleasure to pay homage to an old favorite.


So when I found out that Mama Zoya, that legendary bastion of good, cheap Georgian food, had a new home, I grabbed four friends and headed down there for a little pre-Rolling Stones food and drink. (Only this kind of diligent preparation would allow me to thoroughly enjoy Mick Jagger's toe-licking.)


One big improvement in the new location is that now Mama Zoya is easy to find -- right on one of the busy streets near Kropotkinskaya metro station. Another advantage is that it has more room -- though even on a Tuesday night, the place was jumping. There is one big room, as well as several private rooms, where we ended up sitting. It was fun to have our own room, though it did not provide much defense against the incredibly loud accordion players. The decor is pretty bare bones with some plastic flowers and other kitschy items, but our eyes never had time to wander too far from our plates.


The service was speedy and good-humored. When asked where the Borjomi mineral water was from, i.e. was it the real stuff from Georgia, he replied, "Its origin is unknown," quickly adding, "But we drink it all the time. You won't get poisoned or anything." That was enough to convince us.


We ordered a lot of different things for the table, and in between toasts we passed plates unceremoniously. We toasted with Kristall vodka (50 rubles, or $7.90, a bottle), which is not very Georgian, but we weren't really feeling refined enough for wine, of which they had many Georgian varieties for around 80 rubles.


In general, the vegetable dishes were a lot more impressive than the meat ones. One of my favorites was the red lobio (10 rubles), a garlicky bean dish. The khachapuri (15 rubles) was extremely cheesy and delicious. The abzhapsandal, a plate of braised vegetables, was also worthy of praise. Among the main dishes, the kebabs were fine, but we were not impressed with the out-of-context spaghetti that accompanied them. The Mama Zoya special (40 rubles) is made up of chicken organs -- I had trouble identifying them, but they were edible enough -- a fried egg, a delectable eggplant-tomato-mayonnaise construction, and a pancake covered with cheese.


I lost track of exactly how many dishes we ordered, but it was more than enough. We left happy -- especially after seeing the bill: 510 rubles for five people.


Mama Zoya. 12 Ulitsa Ostozhenka, 202-0445, 11 a.m. to midnight. Metro: Kropotkinskaya.