If the Georgian proverb that “guests are a true gift from God” does not provide enough of a testament to the unparalleled level of hospitality embedded in Georgian culture, attendance at a time-honored supra (Georgian feast) most definitely will. Steeped in tradition and complemented by copious amounts of Georgia’s finest wine and culinary offerings, the supra represents a culmination of the country’s vibrant heritage and cultural emphasis on the importance of coming together over a delicious meal.
But with all great traditions comes the need for exploration and innovation. Just ask Head Chef Arthur Linikevich, who recently debuted his Georgian fusion menu at the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace’s premier restaurant, Ati. After training and working in some of the highest rated restaurants in Latvia, England, and France, Linikevich has embarked on his latest culinary adventure, offering up a contemporary take on some of Georgia’s most traditional dishes.
Investor.ge recently sat down with Chef Arthur to hear his perspective on how to create an unforgettable modern supra that combines international culinary techniques with Georgia’s rich gastronomic history.
On choosing the right location: Georgian traditions regarding the supra rely as much on the atmosphere as their cuisine. That’s why I can think of no better place to host a modern supra than Ati. Its location on the tenth floor of the Sheraton provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Tbilisi’s old town, immersing visitors in the rich history of the country. Its interior combines a level of contemporary classic style with touches of traditional Georgian culture, which aesthetically sets the tone for a multi-sensory fusion culinary experience.
On combining the traditional with the nontraditional: My culinary journey throughout Europe and here in Tbilisi has really served as inspiration for this menu. When I arrived in Georgia, I found an entirely new array of dishes and flavor combinations to explore. I set out with my team to taste each traditional dish the way that their mothers and grandmothers had served them. I then infused some of my French culinary training, staying true to the local ingredients and flavor combinations. The Georgian supra is traditionally served family style, but I’ve created a menu centered around individualized portions, which has given me the opportunity to innovate in terms of presentation. Let me give you one example. Georgian cuisine is known for its acidity. So, in creating my version of chikirtma soup, I wanted to explore this taste in a novel way. I constructed lemon and lime caviar, which is served atop our chicken dumplings and pulled smoked chicken. As hot broth is poured over the dish, the caviar melts slightly. But, when you take a bite, you experience these small bursts of acidity, which play around in your mouth, offering a classic Georgian taste in a new and exciting way.
Even after debuting the new menu, I’ve continued my exploration into the nuances of Georgian cuisine. Just last week I took a trip to Imereti to meet local chefs and study the flavors and culinary techniques endemic to the region. I am looking forward to bringing these discoveries to the table soon to share with our guests.
On choosing the right dishes: When holding a modern supra, the key is to bring contemporary elements to your dishes while paying homage to the brilliance of Georgian traditional gastronomy. Let’s take my signature dish, for instance – the crispy cod. This dish is all about maximizing the use of local ingredients. My deep-fried cod is stuffed with local dambalkhacho cheese and mushroom butter, served with fresh Kakhetian truffles alongside a locally sourced porcini mushroom puree. And of course, we cannot forget our mini shrimp khinkali, which provides a modern twist on the classic Georgian dumpling. Served alongside oyster mushrooms and a cognac mousse – now, whether you wish to use your hands and eat this dish the traditional way, that is up to you!
On choosing the right wine: While the traditional supra experience centers around a tamada (toastmaster) that offers toasts throughout the event with his wine of choice, Ati prides itself on offering the finest Georgian and international wine pairings to complement the flavors of each individual dish. Our restaurant manager may offer a white, dry Kisi to complement my crispy cod or a Saperavi to accompany our take on the classic shkmeruli – or you can choose a more traditional gvevri wine offered by our local partners.
On finishing the meal on the right note: Every good tamada understands the importance of sending guests off on the right note. My personal recommendation for ending any modern supra would have to be our Tvishi wine jelly. This dish is especially sentimental to me because it evokes memories of childhood deserts prepared by my mother in Latvia. The jelly is created from semi-sweet Tvishi wine and infused with tarragon as well as local lemons and oranges. It’s served with poached peaches and topped with whipped cream and a tarragon garnish. Fresh, light, and a little boozy- the perfect final toast!