The best Georgian food I’ve ever eaten in this country made such an impact on me, I can still close my eyes and conjure Pirosmani in Seattle, long-closed but one of the best restaurants I reviewed during my 1990s tenure there. Pirosmani is thus the standard by which I’m judging Supra, the “feast” whose chef, Malkhaz Maisashvili, spent a year at the Embassy of Georgia. Decorated with the woolly hats worn in Georgia’s mountain regions and metalwork using the Georgian alphabet, the newcomer is clearly a hit with the public, who crowd in nightly for warm chicken draped in a thin but creamy walnut sauce, a raft of bread topped with melted cheese and an organic egg (ajaruli) and kebabs including marinated catfish hooked up with onions and red peppers. The problem? I can’t stop comparing now with then: The dull soup dumplings at Supra vs. the meat-and-mint-stuffed khinkali, which released a stream of hot broth when you bit down, at Pirosmani. The spinach pâté at Supra is a pale version of Pirosmani’s pkhali, vivid with cilantro and vinegar. No doubt, Supra is offering the uncommon; bread stuffed with zesty pork and beef, a meal washed back with Georgian wine, is among my happy routines. I just want the kitchen to soar more.
Supra: 1205 11th St. NW. 202-789-1205. supradc.com.
Open: Lunch Tuesday through Friday, dinner daily, brunch weekends.
Prices: Lunch shared plates $5 to $18, dinner shared plates $5 to $22, brunch shared plates $5 to $18.
Sound check: 83 decibels / Extremely loud.
The following review was originally published Dec. 29, 2017.
Supra sets an inviting table for a Georgian feast
The waiters at Supra, home to khinkali and chanakhi — soup dumplings and braised lamb stew, respectively — want to put newcomers at ease; the cooking of Georgia, as in the republic, is relatively recent in Washington. Consequently, greetings by the staff include a brief flavor profile. “We use a lot of garlic, cilantro and walnuts,” servers invariably tell patrons who tag themselves as first-timers.
Supra, which translates from Georgian as “feast,” is the debut restaurant from Washington lawyer Jonathan Nelms, who traces his interest in Georgia to teenage friendships with exchange students from the region and subsequent trips abroad.
During a three-year stay in Moscow, he and his wife and co-owner, Laura, found Georgian restaurants to be among the most popular among expats and locals alike. Nelms paints bountiful Georgia as “the California of the former Soviet Union.”
The menu is arranged much as a feast would unfold in Georgia, says Nelms, starting with an array of snacks. The cold plates at Supra include creamy kidney beans with herbs and walnuts, as well as a handsome tasting board arranged with colorful beet and spinach pâtés, plus Georgian cheeses and glossy eggplant rolled around walnut paste. Hot starters find steamed mussels in a tarragon-laced bath of white wine and sweetly spiced sausages (kupati) served with fried pickles. Bring on the amber wine! (But, stop, please, with the multiple interruptions by servers to order more food.)
Most likely to draw me back to the restaurant are the kebabs, including pork bolstered with sweet-and-sour plum sauce, and the crisp breads — specifically the plate-size round ones, stuffed with pork and beef, called kubdari.
Supra’s executive chef is Malkhaz Maisashvili, who spent 2012-2013 cooking at the Embassy of Georgia.
The chef first cooked for his future employers in 2011 at a Tbilisi establishment called In the Shadow of Metekhi — unbeknown to any of them at the time as they didn’t meet until 2016.
Nelms wants to give customers the true Georgian experience, hence Supra’s all-Georgian wine list; the same background music used to accompany the Georgian National Ballet, the acclaimed Sukhishvili; and design touches including the phrase “our little secret” spelled out in raised metal Georgian letters on a rear wall.
However, the most entertaining detail may be the puffy white objects on display behind glass near the entrance. What appear to be rows of blonde Tribbles (remember the furry little aliens from TV’s “Star Trek”?) are in reality papakhi, woolly hats worn in Georgia’s mountainous regions and the perfect antidote to Washington’s current cold streak.
Need proper headwear? For $75, you can carry out a papakha.