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Plate Lab: Khachapuri is Georgian bread with cheese, eggs, butter. What’s not to like?

Khachapuri is a Georgian cheese pie that comes in many different forms, including open-faced. Here's how the khachapuri acharuli dish gets constructed at Compass Rose in Washington, D.C. (Jhaan Elker and Kate M. Tobey/The Washington Post)

One could go on and on about the country of Georgia’s rich history of khachapuri, a cheese bread that comes in nearly a dozen varieties, but this is the most important thing Americans newly discovering the dish should know: It’s basically buttery pizza.

“Cheese and egg and butter. Who doesn’t like that?” said JohnPaul Damato, chef at Compass Rose, which has a globe-trotting menu inspired by the travels of owners Rose Previte and her husband, David Greene, who worked overseas as an NPR correspondent.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide. View Archive

The style of khachapuri served at Compass Rose is khachapuri Adjarian, shown here, for which the boat-shaped dough is filled and baked with ricotta, mozzarella and feta, with the egg and butter mixed in tableside. (To cut the richness, Damato adds a non-traditional sprinkling of za’atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend.)

“It’s a showstopper,” said Damato, who sells at least 40 each night. “You go to the table and you mix in all the butter, you drag the yolk and you swirl it all around. It’s a good conversation piece, too.” The best way to eat it is with your hands, ripping off the sides of the boat and dipping them into the oozy cheese.

In addition to the Adjarian, other styles of khachapuri (the “kha” sound has a throatiness to it, as in “l’chaim”) can be found at Levante’s in Dupont Circle, where the circular Imeretian and Megrelian styles are more akin to pizza, with cheese baked into the dough.

Georgian Khachapuri at Compass Rose. (Greg Powers/For The Washington Post)

“I can’t say that I have a favorite — it depends on what my craving is,” said Julie Giorgadze, public relations counselor at the Embassy of Georgia. Americans, she said, tend to prefer the Adjarian, which Damato predicts will soon show up on more menus.

For an even more authentic experience, you can pair the dish with Georgian orange wine, which is available at both restaurants and has “the mouthfeel of a red wine, but it’s made from white grapes,” said Noah Brockett, director of operations at Georgian Wine House, an importer. The frequent traveler to Georgia eats khachapuri at both restaurants in Washington, as do members of the tightknit disapora community. Traditionally, khachapuri is meant to be shared.

“It makes me think of family, great friends, amazing memories,” Brockett said.

More Plate Lab

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