The Georgian word “supra” means a large, celebratory feast, which you can now experience at the District’s first Georgian restaurant by the same name.
Supra opened Tuesday and has since been introducing D.C. foodies to Georgian cuisine. The menu consists of soup dumplings, cheese-filled bread and other dishes that show off the country’s Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences. To allow customers to explore the unique cuisine of the Republic of Georgia, head chef Malkhaz Maisashvili offers classic dishes served primarily in small-plate style, making for a social and exploratory dining experience at the 1205 11th St. NW spot.
Jonathan Nelms, who owns Supra with his wife Laura, is a lawyer-turned-restaurateur who spent his younger years living abroad and traveling to Georgia, which spurred his interest in the country. He said he wanted to start a Georgian restaurant for years, but finally got the ball rolling after hearing the cuisine is going to be “the next big thing.”
“We try to make the menu very flexible so that people can try a lot things,” Nelms said. “You can basically just come in and try a lot of new flavors and get a pretty good variety.”
Nelms said Supra serves many dishes that can be found in any restaurant in Georgia, but some dishes feature substituted ingredients to stick with the Georgian value of using the freshest ingredients.
“The Georgian cuisine always draws on fresh local ingredients,” Nelms said. “We aren’t trying to slavishly follow the Tbilisi menus, but we wanted to start with quintessential Georgian dishes and use our imaginations from there.”
Although Supra leaves some room for the chef’s interpretation in dishes, they utilize a few distinctive traditional ingredients, like dried marigold flowers and blue fenugreek, a spicy herb.
Supra’s chefs also stick to tradition when it comes to staple dishes like Khachapuri, a stuffed cheese bread with various fillings. One of the six options for this bread is the Pkholovani Khachapuri ($12), a layered bread stuffed with spinach and cheese.
In even the biggest U.S. cities, Georgian cuisine is uncommon, so many of Supra’s diners will likely be newcomers, like I was. For those who haven’t explored menus like this before, an order of Kchachapuri is an excellent place to start while you ponder the rest of the extensive menu because the simple flavors are comforting and familiar while still unique.
I settled on the beef and pork Khinkali, or soup dumplings – another must-try at Supra. They are served in orders of three ($8) or six ($15) and with the option of mushroom, beef or a mixed beef and pork filling. This was my first time eating a Khinkali, but my waiter enlightened me on the best way to grab, bite and slurp one. Although I spilled the soup on myself multiple times, these dumplings were delicious and it was easily my favorite dish of the evening.
Between courses, visitors can admire art that dons the walls of Supra from artists in Moscow, D.C. and Tbilisi — Georgia’s capital city. The high ceilings and large street-facing windows give the main dining area a simple feel, while the Georgian music adds a sense of coziness. Around the corner and somewhat separate from the main dining area is a small but stocked bar filled with wines from the country and various expected cocktail ingredients, making a livelier space.
The Quail Makvalshi ($14) includes grilled quail wings in a tart blackberry sauce that was the ideal combination of sweet and savory. The Oraguli ($15), a grilled salmon filet topped with creamy tomato walnut sauce, also did not disappoint.
Both dishes were eloquently plated and included signature ingredients of marigold, used to garnish the quail and blue fenugreek, which was added to the Oraguli’s tomato walnut sauce.
The restaurant can seat upwards of 100 diners, mostly at long, community-style tables in the center of the space. Tasting my first Georgian food, seated next to a stranger doing the same, drove home the sense of community and celebration that the name Supra encompasses.
“We don’t want people to feel intimidated by hard-to-pronounce wines or dishes or things like that, you know,” Nelms said. “I would encourage people to come and give it a chance.”