Supra (Washington D.C.) – The last time I was in D.C. (2012), I spent the summer there, and while I ate a lot of good food that time, the food scene in the District has changed considerably – in a good way. Since I was in town for a wedding, I made sure to hit up restaurants and museums while I was there for the weekend. The scene is lit – the food is on another level. Thankfully I have a cousin who lives there and she recommended we try out Georgian cuisine – a first for any of us.
Supra opened a month before I got there, and it’s Washington D.C.’s first Georgian restaurant. The owners, Jonathan and Laura Helms, have a deep appreciation for Georgian cuisine, having traveled and lived in Russia and Georgia throughout their career and even dined at the now executive chef’s restaurant in Tbilisi, Georgia. Executive Chef Malkhaz Maisashvili, former chef of the Embassy of Georgia, wanted to introduce D.C. to the cuisine’s stews and soup dumplings, among other things while also putting a modern twist on the cuisine.
Supra – the name, that is – means both a Georgian traditional tablecloth as well as an abundant Georgian feast. When you enter the restaurant, there are unique interior touches that pay homage to the culture, but it’s also a modern fine dining space. Luckily, Supra takes reservations (a rarity in San Francisco) so we walked right in and made our way to our table. The chef was walking around and also taking orders, so we asked for recommendations – and he suggested to try the imported Georgian sodas. Happy I tried them, but not really my thing, stick with your usual beverage of choice.
Georgian cuisine has a lot of similarities to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, so it’s something I’m very familiar with. Supra is family style and small plates, so we ordered small plates from the “hot” section. I mean, it was December, so it was cold. We started off with the Elarji, cornmeal and cheese croquettes with almond sauce and red ajika. Ajika is a spicy dip; it reminds me of spicy chutneys that are often found in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine, especially Afghan food. The croquettes were delicious and the cheese was nice and stringy. We also ordered Kale Moshushuli, which was sautéed kale, garlic and svanuri salt. I thought this would have more unique flavor, but it ended up being a standard sautéed kale.
Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian dish that is essentially cheese-filled bread. Supra offers several variations, ones filled with vegetables, eggs, and meat. It immediately caught my eye, not only because it’s bread (I love carbs), but because of the “puri” part in the word. In Pakistani cuisine, puris are a flaky, quickly deep fried bread, so if it had any similarity then I was sold. We ordered the Pkhlovani, which has spinach and cheese. It’s much thicker than paper thin puris, but it’s packed with cheese and spinach. I would liken it to a calzone, and Georgians actually prefer Khachapuri to pizza.
And this is the reason we came – Khinkali, Georgian soup dumplings. I know soup dumplings are extremely popular Chinese cuisine (xiaolongbao), so it was cool to see the Asian influence in Georgian food. This was my first time having any type of soup dumpling, so I was very excited. It comes out on a tray with a small cup of water with a lemon and a pepper grinder. To eat (according to our waiter), you dip your hands into the water bowl to wet your fingers, hold the soup dumpling by the top and carefully bite in. Then you slurp the broth and meat inside! I’m not totally sure if this is the “correct” way to eat it, but we did it. The table across from us was watching us to see how we did it – maybe we were just making fools of ourselves… haha. Either way, the broth had a hearty beefy flavor and very comforting on a cold day. And it’s also addicting.
And finally, we ordered two kebabs – the Chicken, marinated in sour cream and served with alike and tkemali, and Lamb, marinated in yogurt with alike and tkemali. Tkemali is a sour plum sauce. The lamb was delicious and cooked perfectly but the chicken was just okay. We didn’t order any larger plates since we had so many things on our table.
Supra is definitely worth checking out. It’s fun to try a new and underexposed cuisine, and I always enjoy seeing the commonalities and influences from other cultures!