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March 7, 2021

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Food & Drink: Dediko’s fare is meant to be shared

Georgian restaurant honors culture, but adds its own twists

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Tiflis salad with cucumber and tomato in a light walnut oil with fresh dill at Dediko.
Tiflis salad with cucumber and tomato in a light walnut oil with fresh dill at Dediko. (Rachel Pinsky for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Ella Bakh, owner of Dediko, prepares Georgian food with the heart of a chef and the eye of a florist. She serves kompot (fruit juice) in individual mason jars to show off cherries, strawberries and sliced plums bobbing around the bottom. She serves churchkhela, a traditional Georgian sweet made from grape juice, nuts and flour, in elegant petals instead of the long tapered, candle shapes that they can be found in her hometown of Tbilisi. Her Georgian Dip Tour with pkhali (dips) made from fresh vegetables, herbs and walnuts, served with a sampling of Georgian cheeses and lavash bread, is jewel box of colors.

Bakh hopes that customers will share their meals as Georgians do.

“We don’t like a fork and knife. We eat with our hands,” she explained. “We like to share. We all want to eat everything and I can’t eat it all by myself.”

The current menu at Dediko is short. Nick Bakh, Ella’s son and co-owner, designed it to be aesthetically pleasing but also easy to understand for customers new to Georgian food. Each heading has a pronunciation key and a brief description of the dish. The dumplings (khinkali) and bread boats (khachapuri) will be most recognizable to those who have noticed the Georgian trend in the United States.

The khinkali dumplings are traditionally eaten by grabbing the top knot, flipping over the entire dumpling then taking a small bite to suck out the soup broth. The top knot is often left on the plate because the dough can be tough, but at Dediko the dough is light and silky — easily eaten and hard to leave behind on the plate.

Kachapuri are baked-to-order boat-shaped breads with various toppings. The Adjaruli kachapuri with fresh cheese, butter and an egg is best conquered by swirling the egg, cheese and butter into a rich sauce with a fork and then sopping that up with pieces of bread torn from the edges. Traditional Georgian Sulguni cheese is featured along with two other cheeses that Bakh intends to keep top secret.

Georgian food doesn’t fit the stereotype of food from this part of the world. It’s not bland or heavy. The Tiflis salad (cucumber and tomato in a light walnut oil with fresh dill) and the Mtsvadi salad (sliced cabbage and quarter moons of cucumber in a creamy dressing flecked with fresh dill and tarragon) burst with farm freshness.

For centuries, travelers moving between Asia and Europe brought an array of spices to this small former Soviet country. Coriander seeds, bay leaves, caraway seeds and summer savory may be recognizable to those in the Pacific Northwest. Marigold, blue fenugreek, and dried berberis berries add subtle, unusual flavors. Walnuts appear in sweet and savory dishes chopped, pulverized and pressed into oil. The velvety lentil soup and the mtsvadi (cubes of marinated chicken or pork with fried potato wedges) showcase these spices in a splendid warming mixture.

Bakh tweaks tradition to make food that fits with local tastes and her own culinary imagination. Vegan options include the mushroom khinkali (tender sliced mushrooms tucked into a silky dumpling) and lobio pot (a luscious bean stew served in a small clay pot).

Dediko offers an extensive list of Georgian wines, including many that are made the traditional way by fermenting grapes underground in elegant large ceramic pots called qvevri. You will find little ornamental qvevris nestled around the restaurant. Wines made this way are marked on the wine menu with a qvevri symbol.

The best way to sample this ancient cuisine is to arrive hungry and with a group, sample things from several categories on the menu, and savor it with a bottle of earthy Georgian wine or refreshing jars of kompot.

If You Go

What: Dediko.

Where: 210 W. Evergreen Blvd., Suite 700, Vancouver.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Contact: 360-314-4370; https://www.facebook.com/Dediko-1264767063689845/

Health score: Dediko has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled for a routine inspection in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.

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