This summer, the Washington Post Magazine's Plate Lab column featured khachapuri, the Georgian cheese bread that we've affectionately named "butter pizza" ("A thing so wonderful it seems as if it only could have come from the mind of Liz Lemon"). It was popularized by street-food restaurant Compass Rose, and in a previous interview with the restaurant's chef, JohnPaul Damato, he said, "I have a funny feeling people are going to start adding it to their menus. It’s just like how Jose Andres got people to make paellas. Instead of making pizza, make khachapuri."
It was a prescient statement. D.C.'s khachapuri takeover continues at a steady pace, with Mari Vanna becoming the third D.C. restaurant to begin serving it, singlehandedly upping our city's butter pizza quotient by 50 percent just in time for cold weather. Like Levante's before it, Mari Vanna offers two styles of khachapuri, which have regional variations throughout Georgia: The circular, cheese-topped Imeruli is more like a white pizza, while the boat-shaped Arjarski (also called Acharuli at Levante's) is a vessel for eggy, buttery goodness.
At $18 for both styles, Mari Vanna's khachapuri is the most expensive in the city. It has a high filling-to-bread ratio, which makes it ooze pleasingly across the plate once you rip and dip the sides of the boat. But of all the khachapuri in D.C., it's also the smallest portion, which is probably a good thing, considering no sane person would ever think a dish comprised entirely of dough and ungodly amounts of cheese, egg and butter is something that should be even larger. Think of it as a personal pan (butter) pizza.
In other khachapuri news, Compass Rose will begin serving the dish late night -- until 2 a.m on Fridays and Saturdays -- to capture the coveted 14th Street drunk demographic.