A universe away from Berlin’s latest artisanal-Asian-street-fusion trend, on a quiet street off Ku’damm, Abchasia is a singular place. For one, this is the only restaurant in Berlin you’ll be able to get a taste of puréed feijoa (a very strange fruit, originally from Brazil, with a coarse peel and tart, aromatic flesh), or any other Abkhazian dishes, cooked with original ingredients brought back from the tiny secessionist Black Sea republic by owner Violetta Rudat and her two sons.
But there’s more to be experienced – Violetta’s own extroverted hospitality. After 17 years in Berlin, two recipe books and an unlucky debut in the business (Bei Violetta on Georg-Wilhelm-Straße, which she was ordered to vacate within two weeks by an unscrupulous new landlord), the congenial Violetta decided to give it another go: Abchasia opened last March, and it’s already growing on the rather food-shy Charlottenburger set.
Don’t get fooled by the Roche Bobois aesthetics (including a 450kg table made from a tree trunk), which are more suited to City West’s posh ethos than to the full-bodied temperament of Violetta and the beautiful rusticity of her cooking.
She’s already won over regulars. Germans come for their Teigtaschen fix – the “Achinkal” (€13.50), delicious minced lamb-and-veal filled dumplings with a hint of fresh coriander. Russians come for the kharcho (a spicy soup with lamb, rice, adjika and chopped walnut, €5.90). She says men go for the shashlik (skewered chunks of chicken or lamb, €13.50-17); women for her delicate aubergine rolls (€6.50): thin slices of eggplant oven-roasted to prevent greasiness, then filled with her very special walnut sauce – also used to accompany her fish and meats.
Another recurring theme here is the aforementioned adjika – a hot pepper-and-garlic condiment used in Georgian cuisine but which, Violetta maintains, originates from Abkhazia and which she makes herself from scratch, Abkhazian style, with walnuts and coriander.
Besides sauces, one craft she excels at is bread-baking. A must-try is her Georgian khatchapuri (“Atschasch”; €4-9.50), a flatbread made of yeast-free yoghurt dough and filled with a mix of buffalo mozzarella, French goat cheese and Cyprus halloumi and served piping hot. Pure joy! For something more yeasty – i.e. fluffy – her small “ships” with a moist core of melted cheese (€4.50-8) are unmatched.
Vegetarians can dig into cheese dumplings (€9.90) or a simple plate of white-corn polenta topped with homemade ratatouille and textured with Violeta’s famous walnut delight (€9.50). Walnuts are a staple of Abkhazian cuisine (also featured in salads and turned into ice cream) on par with pomegranate, and unusual sorts of grapes – like Isabella, a dark purple wine grape with the uncanny flavours of aloe vera, which she blends for unusual desserts of her own creation. As for the feijoa, she turns it into a delicious sweet blend in a wink of an eye, to be spread on bread or eaten with yoghurt. Wash it all down with a glass of Georgian red (Saperavi or Napareuli) and digest with a glass of chacha – Caucasian grappa.
It’s not cheap, but it’s all made from scratch with quality ingredients (organic flour, Himalayan salt, buffalo mozzarella, French corn-fed chicken, Irish lamb, etc.), and if you measure up a restaurant by the pure satisfaction you feel leaving it, this should be high on your list. You will leave Abchasia decadently happy – as Violetta and, allegedly, Nietzsche, like to say: “Mann muss das Leben tanzen!”