Supra and Tabla: Georgian in DC

Georgian food is one of the more unusual types of cuisines that you can find in DC. Not from the state of Georgia, mind you. Georgia the Eastern European country. Supra has been a main stay of DC for years. But during the COVID pandemic the owners — Jonathan and Laura Nelms — managed to open a second restaurant, Tabla. Both serve superb Georgian food.

Supra

Signature dishes

There are many different Georgian dishes on Supra’s menu, but it is known for two. The first is a Georgian bread stuffed with cheese: Khachapuri.

Khachapuri (ajaruli)

There are two styles of Khachapuri available, imeruli and ajaruli. The imeruli is a stuffed, enclosed bread somewhat reminiscent of the Italian calzone. The ajaruli consists of cheese in an open, boat shaped, bread bowl. In addition to the traditional cheese filling, several other choices are available. For breakfast or brunch, cheese with a softly cooked egg is good combination. Other options are potato and cheese or a pork/beef combo. No matter which one you choose, they are delicious.

The cheese is soft and gooey. If you get a ajaruli with egg, it is mixed with the cheese before eating. My waiter offered to do it, but I did it myself. The combination makes for a wonderful blend of flavors; the gooey cheese compliments the bread perfectly. All together, this is a great dish. But it is quite heavy. I had it as an entree, but I get the impression it is intended for sharing.

Khinkali

The second dish Supra is famous for is Khinkali, a Georgian steamed dumpling. Filling options are pork and beef, lamb, or zucchini and cheese. I went with pork and beef. The dumplings are filled with a flavorful broth, making them quite soupy. I had to get advice from the waiter on how to eat them. He told me to use the knot at the top as a handle, invert the Khinkali, bite into it, and suck to get the juice out. The rest is eaten at leisure. Optional is a powdered spice, served on the side. A small bowl of lemon water is used to clean your fingertips after eating. I found the Khinkali delicious, having a strong, distinctive flavor. They are also large and filling. A couple of these could make a meal. Again, I think Khinkali is best for sharing. They are also available frozen, so you can take some home.

Small plates

Supra also has several varieties of small plates, both hot and cold. These vary from spreads, to salads or roasted vegetables. I’ve sampled most of them and can say without hesitation that every single one of them is fantastic.

You can get a pretty good sampling with the Globi platter. This includes stuffed eggplant, a sweet and sour combination of pates (one carrot and one kale), some sort of sprout salad, bread, and cheese. My favorite was the stuffed eggplant. The filling is cheese that has been seasoned with a blend of spices. it tastes amazing. But the real star of the platter is the bread. Freshly made, crunchy on the outside but moist on the inside, it is excellent. It went well with the pates. Both have strong flavors and as such are best used sparingly. When that is done, they are well complemented with the smokey flavor of the bread.

As good as the gobi platter is, there are plenty of other small plates that are even better. I recommend a bean salad called Lobio Mtsvanilit. In addition to beans, it has greens and a generous amount of feta. It looks light, but is actually quite filling. But the small plate that made the biggest impression on me is a roasted eggplant dish called Ajapsandali. It also has green beans, peppers, and onions. Seasoned to perfection, it tastes completely unique. I’ve had nothing else like it.

Supra has other entrees as well, including a variety of grilled items. Several years ago, I got the entree pictured on the side. I neglected to write down what it was. I think it was some sort of braised lamb. I remember it hit the spot on a cold, fall day.

Desserts

Walnut cake

Supra has a handful of desserts on the menu. The first is Tetri Pelamushi, a mousse-like dessert. I had that at Tabla, so see below for its review. At Supra, I had the walnut cake. This is a small, dense cake covered with chopped walnuts. It is somewhat reminiscent of a peanut donut, but much more rich and dense. The cake is served with honey and peach puree. This is a good combination, as the sauces offset the dryness of the cake. I was quite pleased.

Ambiance

Supra has the feel of fine dining. The tables are covered with a dark, elegant wood and the lighting is subdued. Georgian ambience is conveyed through music softly playing and old photographs on walls.

[ photo from before the pandemic]

Tabla

Tabla is their second restaurant, located on Georgia Avenue (“Georgian on Georgia”) in DC’s Park View neighborhood. It ended up opening during the pandemic, but thankfully it seems to be doing well.

Signature dishes

The menu is a subset of what is available at Supra.

Of course, both Khachapuri and Khinkali are available. These are prepared the same way as they are at Supra; the quality is there. Here, I tried the imeruli style Khachapuri. The bread was crispy and had a strong butter flavor. Here also I got the egg and cheese filling, and it has the same wonderful blend of flavors. However, my preference is for the open faced ajaruli style. I do find that the imeruli is a bit easier to eat with a knife and fork.

Other options

Other sections of the menu include makaldan (from the grill) and baghidan (from the garden). The grill section has several different kebabs. I had a ground pork one call lyulya. Mildly seasoned with Georgian spices and served with a mild tomato sauce, it has the perfect balance of flavors. It seems all their dishes are like that.

However, I was blown away by my garden entree: a butternut squash salad. The butternut was cooked until just tender and served with a scrumptious walnut sauce (satsivi) that was just out of this world. I could have had that as my meal and I would have been quite satisfied.

Desserts

Tetri Pelamushi

I’ve had two of the desserts at Tabla. The first, as I mentioned above, was Tetri Pelamushia. This is a mousse like dessert made with grapes. It has a delicate taste and is quite divine. I get the impression it is one of Supra’s (and now Tabla’s) signature desserts.

Chocolate truffles

The other dessert I have tried is the chocolate truffles. I have a very high bar for truffles, as a dear friend makes truffles for Christmas every year that are far superior than any truffle bought at a store. Time and time again, I have been disappointed by truffles not made by him. I finally have found a truffle that is as good as my friend’s. Rich with a deep dark chocolate flavor, soft, and creamy, Tabla’s truffles are top par.

Atmosphere

Tabla has a more casual feel than Supra does. It has the ambiance of a cocktail lounge. There is a much wider variety of cocktails. Supra, on the other hand, places its emphasizes on the wine selection. I think Tabla is targeting a younger, more casual crowd.

Final thoughts

Both Tabla and Supra have great food and servea style of cuisine that is quite unique. Every dish has a superb balance of flavors, often quite profound. I recommend both places; the main distinction is the dining ambiance.

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