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 coowner, 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.