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Kapnos, Kapnos Taverna, and Kapnos Kouzina - Greek in Multiple Area Locations - Closed


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As I was in a bit of a "treat yo'self" mood last night, I decided to check out Mike Isabella's new place Kapnos and apply some strict ethnic scrutiny to what he is offering to the DC-area bourgeoisie as Greek food.

The focus Kapnos (meaning 'smoke') is grilled foods from Northern Greece, although many of the items of the menu are classic Greek dishes regardless of their local origin within the country. Not wanting to BS around with the shi-shi items on the menu, e.g., kohlrabi crudite (I'm fairly sure the average Greek does not know what kohlrabi is, and certainly not in this economy...) or duck pita (duck phyllo pie on the menu), I lined up some of my favorite foods and those that I thought would most representative of Kapnos' focus.

Tyrokafteri "“ Too much tyri (cheese) and not enough kafteri (spiciness). Tyrokafteri should really bring some heat, and I thought the sparse and thin slices of hot pepper could not provide enough heat to balance what essentially was a large plate of whipped feta with olive oil. The fresh-baked pita was really nice though; I always liked that at Zaytinya.

Patates tou Fourno (aka Fourno Patates on the menu) "“ My username on this site also happens to list two of the basic ingredients for patates tou fourno (oven-roasted potatoes): ladi (oil) and lemoni (not surprisingly, lemon), oven-roasted potatoes have always been one of my absolute favorite dishes since I was a kid. So, you can imagine they hold a special place in my food life. Isabella's version is good, and more importantly, the dish does not try to do anything clever; they are simple and rustic. The potatoes themselves had that nice golden appearance with some charring, and were neither too mealy nor undercooked. However, in Greek cuisine, you can rarely have oil without lemon, and unfortunately, that's what was lacking from these potatoes. A bit more lemon and this dish will be a standard plate for every table at Kapnos.

Charred Octopus "“ This was the big winner, and I could tell from the moment I sunk my knife into the first tentacle. Octopus is tricky to cook (as I learned first-hand recently), so I commend any chef who nails this. This was tender, not chewy in the slightest, and had that great roast flavor. Plus, the green harissa was a really nice addition to the dish. Overall favorite and this should be a standard plate for anyone dining here.

Roasted Goat "“ So close, but not there yet. The goat is quite tender and has all the characteristics of delicious spit-roasted meats. However, like the potatoes, it was lacking something to balance out all that meatiness. I would have liked another herb or perhaps a tad more salt on the goat itself, because the harissa + yogurt combo on the plate was not enough to balance. But, I can see this dish improving over time as the restaurant evolves.

Overall, I'd say that Kapnos earns a solid B+ right now. Since the restaurant is so new, I imagine the recipes will be worked and re-worked until they hit their peak. However, it's a worthwhile entry and I'll be keeping an eye on its progress over time.

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Here's another review:

http://dcist.com/2013/07/first_look_kapnos.php#photo-4

Here's an excerpt and a counterpoint to the "shi-shi" menu items above:

"But the dish I'll be back for is the duck phyllo pie. It's got a little bit of everything going on: the crunchy, buttery phyllo shell gives way to tender duck meat, balanced out by a tangle of vinaigrette-kissed watercress, red onion, and bing cherries. It's a rare occasion when at least five different flavors and textures all play well together."

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I was anxious to try out Mike Isabella's new Greek restaurant Kapnos, so gave it a try on day two of its being open to the public. First, I will say that I definitely had trepidation about Isabella opening another restaurant so soon on the heels of Graffiato and Bandolero. I have to say that my fears were unfounded and I think he's doing some pretty great things at Kapnos.

First of all there is kegged lemonade. I had mine with Skinos, watermelon, tarragon, and lemon. It's a great drink for a hot summer night.

The selection of spreads are all appealing, but we settle on tyrokaftari which combines spicy feta, smoked manouri cheese, and “grains of paradise.” The spread is beautifully adorned with radish, dill, and cracked pepper and served along with piping hot stone baked flat bread.

Watermelon from the cold mezze section of the menu, is pickled and accented with ufra chili, rind, and fennel granité. It’s time to toss aside all previous notions of Greek food. These are unique Mediterranean flavors.

We order the rest of our food all at once, with a promise from our eager-to-please server that they will be not be delivered simultaneously. I should learn never to trust servers who say this, because it’s usually a sure sign that we’re about to be handed a passel of dishes. This is the only service issue we have at Kapnos, and since it’s only night two, we have no cause to grumble.

There is no question that my meal will include spit-fired lamb, although meat is only one part of the story at Kapnos. Nearly 60% of the menu features vegetarian items. The lamb is a divine plate of tender, juicy slices of marinated spring lamb atop a tangy grain salad and a dollop of mild harissa. My non meat-eating husband has poached cod with melted leeks, avgolemono, and dako crumbs. This is a fantastic blend of textures and intense flavors.

We also have a luxurious phyllo pie filled with potato and garlic, and surrounded by red pepper almond puree. My husband is ecstatic about the duck egg perched on top, bringing back happy memories of his favorite Countryman pizza at Graffiato.

Smoky hen of the woods mushrooms with kolrabi, graviera cheese, and oregano finishes out our array of mezze. This is the one dish that doesn’t register at quite the same level of the others, although it’s competing on a very tough field.

For dessert, my husband has semolina cake with grilled figs and olive oil ice cream, while I enjoy an amply-portioned scoop of smooth apple and ginger sorbet. He insists I try the cake, and it is surprisingly light and beautifully crisp around the edges.

Kapnos impressed us greatly and again- it was only night two. This is a place I will certainly return to and also recommend highly to others. The number of new restaurants on 14th Street are beginning to overwhelm. Kapnos stands out in this very crowded field.

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A friend and I were also in a 'treat yo self' mood this week and had a great dinner on Wednesday. Isabella himself was in the kitchen. We were seated at one end of the bar with a nice view of the busy kitchen but even better was the view of the spinning, roasting haunches of lamb and goat and suckling pig, the flocks of chicken all turning on the roto. At the bottom of the grill was a huge pile of eggplants that got occasionally poked and tested for doneness.

She had a gin lemonade and I had the non-alcoholic watermelon feta cooler. Gratis sparkling water was a nice touch.

We started off with the taramasalata - cauliflower spread with carp roe a skimpy topping of a nice black caviar (I suppose i shouldn't complain for a starter with caviar at $12) It was light, luscious and lemony, glazed with olive oil and a fantastic starter with the flat, soft, folded pita bread, served on an olivewood board.

She had roasted fennel that was served on a puddle of alarming black sesame tahini and topped with arugula. Tasty char, and still a little crunchy.

I had the barely raw bronzino next, it came glazed with olive oil, lemon and salt (sense a theme here) plus dill and two little crisp chips of fish skin crackling.

We shared the greek fries which were made of chickpeas but reminded me of breaded and fried slices of polenta. The peppercorns ground over it was heavy, making them almost black, which contrasted with the wispy shavings of mizithra cheese. (I was expecting the mizithra to be like the pasta you can get at Old Spaghetti Factory but this was hella more refined.) Not a ton of flavor to the cheese but it could have been overshadowed by all that pepper.

I had the Fourno Patates come out at the same time as my suckling pig and really loved that someone must have been reading the reviews because these really packed a lemony punch. These were some tart potatoes! A great counterpoint to the suckling pig, the ancient grains salad (they seem to put amaranth in a lot of dishes here) and the beet red harrissa which also seemed to have a light sweet crunch to it (jicama?) My friend had the lamb and I am very glad she shared. It had the same accompaniments and was even better than my very good baby pig. We finished off with the charred octopus tentacle and it was also perfectly executed - the thick end was tender and meaty and not at all rubbery. The skinny end was crunchy and the taste reminded me of Asian cuttlefish snacks. It came cleverly crusted with amaranth grains that seemed toasted and crisp like a beady breading. (All of these details were supplied by our helpful and knowledgable server) By this time, we were both almost overfull but still very happy.

Next time we plan on bringing two hungry friends and demolishing that whole lamb shoulder the fellows a few stools over had ordered. It looked amazing.

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I had the Fourno Patates come out at the same time as my suckling pig and really loved that someone must have been reading the reviews because these really packed a lemony punch. These were some tart potatoes!

Either I had an off batch, or someone from the restaurant did in fact read my assessment and executed the change within 3 days. If the latter, that is an excellent integration of constructive criticism!!

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Next time we plan on bringing two hungry friends and demolishing that whole lamb shoulder the fellows a few stools over had ordered. It looked amazing.

I seem to remember a whole lamb shoulder being demolished by two hungry friends, Sig Eater and me quite a few years back at Zaytinya - Isabella was manning the grill.

I'm looking forward to dinner here this week.

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[Do you know what makes me happiest about this thread so far? It's proof positive that we judge restaurants on their individual merits, and that people here aren't automatically going to trash a place just because a TV chef has his hat in the ring. Maybe I've been hypersensitive about this issue, or maybe not, but it's yet another example of the awesomeness of our members, and the fact that there is no "groupthink" in this community, despite years-old, false insinuations to the contrary.]

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[Do you know what makes me happiest about this thread so far? It's proof positive that we judge restaurants on their individual merits, and that people here aren't automatically going to trash a place just because a TV chef has his hat in the ring. Maybe I've been hypersensitive about this issue, or maybe not, but it's yet another example of the awesomeness of our members, and the fact that there is no "groupthink" in this community, despite years-old, false insinuations to the contrary.]

That and, perhaps, some TV chefs actually became TV chefs because of merit! Even if, for example, Volt and Range are well-received because of BV's placement on Top Chef, I've never gotten the sense that he's relied on that in terms of the cuisine he puts out.

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My wife and I went the other night and absolutely loved it. We got the chef's tasting menu and much like Graffiato, there was A LOT of food. For $65 it was a great deal and we left beyond stuffed. Also like Graffiato, it seemed very flexible. If you wanted or didn't want something they seemed to do whatever you wanted.

Mike Isabella was there in the kitchen directing traffic, seasoning and checking plates before they went out. It was refreshing to see a "named" chef actually working in the kitchen. We sat at the bar (my request) so we could see the show. I really liked the seats because we could talk to the all the chefs and see the dishes being made.

When we got there at 6:30 the palce was pretty quiet (maybe 1/4 full). When we left around 9 the place was packed with every table full and a horde of 20 or more people around the door, and this was a Tuesday! I don't think they had a separate bar area so they were just standing there waiting. So if you go, make a reservation or go early!

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On a sweltering Thursday evening, I trudged from the U St. metro to Kapnos to try Mike Isabella's Grecian delights. Delightful it was! The only regret was not being able to try the whole lamb shoulder. I asked if we could just get a taste of it by ordering the tasting menu but to no avail. At the higher price point in tasting menus, (they go from $65 up to $125 IIRC) they would serve you the whole lamb shoulder, but not just a little taste like we wanted. So we said screw the tasting menu and tried the following 8 dishes.

From the misnomered "barely raw" mezzes, we tried everything.

bronzino cucumber, lemon, dill, crackling - if there was any cooking, it was via citrus acid. I liked the refreshing cumber with the barely ceviched branzino

clams cod belly, hearts of palm, wild onion, chili - 3 types of clams, geoduck, razor, and I think little neck. This is my favorite dish because I love properly treated clams - they were all very tender.

royal red shrimp kalamansi, tomato, eggplant - a tan-colored sauce on the bottom of the shrimp that I just didn't care for, I believe it was pureed eggplant with sesame seeds.

From the spit roasted mezze:

marinated spring lamb ancient grain salad - like a lamb kebab, tender but a bit chewy

spiced baby goat ancient grain salad - like a slow cooked BBQ, the meat shreds easily

I'm sure the ancient grain salad is wonderful for you because to me it tasted like something only a vegan would love.

We also ordered the much lauded phyllo pie of roasted duck cress, cherries, pistachio yogurt – a delicious bistilla-like pie full of juicy shredded duck meat

Somewhere between the raw and the cooked, we received the farm house veggie salad and the potato fourno. The only two dishes that weren’t finished. It was too much food and veggies were simply not high on the list of things to eat.

We do need a couple of volunteers so we can go back and do the lamb shoulder (PM me and let's work it out!).

I'm not a fan of plating things on the side of a plate - see the shrimp. The lamb is on the right, goat on the left. The duck came last and I forgot to take a picture.

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I don't think they had a separate bar area so they were just standing there waiting.

The entire room to the left of the door is the bar, with what is apparently first-come, first served seating (I was seated at an open table there immediately, despite a wait for the main dining room).

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The entire room to the left of the door is the bar, with what is apparently first-come, first served seating (I was seated at an open table there immediately, despite a wait for the main dining room).

Thanks! We went in and to the right, to the counter area in front of the open kitchen. The actual bar area must have been packed and either overflowed into the entrance way or the people trying to enter were jammed up at the door since they couldn't get into the bar area. Either way, don't just show up at this place and expect to get a quick seat w/o a reservation.

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I asked if we could just get a taste of it by ordering the tasting menu but to no avail. At the higher price point in tasting menus, (they go from $65 up to $125 IIRC) they would serve you the whole lamb shoulder, but not just a little taste like we wanted.

My menu only had the $65 option but the waiter did mention something about a bigger menu.

That is truly mind boggling. We couldn't finish the final 3 meat dishes (lamb, pig, goat I believe on top of phylo duck dish) and barely made a dent in the two desserts. I can't imagine the amount of food you'd get for nearly double the price. Maybe you're served by Greek goddesses wearing nothing but fig leaves!!?!?

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royal red shrimp kalamansi, tomato, eggplant - a tan-colored sauce on the bottom of the shrimp that I just didn't care for, I believe it was pureed eggplant with sesame seeds.

That is because you have no in food or the company you chose to dine with. That sauce was one of the best elements of any dish last night and eating the shrimp wrapped in the fried purple basil leaf was sublime. On the other hand the inclusion of salt cod in with the clams was bizarre and salty to the point of unpleasantness it diminished a dish that was otherwise excellent.

I do agree the duck pie was delicious, actually I believe that it is the best phyllo centric dish I have ever eaten.

I recommend the gin lemonade as a great way to cool down after the trek from the Metro.

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The Yelpers have, well...yelped. The "pro" reviews (are there any of those left?) will no doubt be in shortly. No one waits for a restaurant to get its sea legs any more, do they? Especially when a good chef opens what will undoubtedly be a hot spot - you gotta go. And go we did, Significant Eater and me, to Kapnos, chef/owner Mike Isabella's new ode to Greece on 14th St. NW.



Of course, Mike didn't open Kapnos by himself; George Pagonis is the chef de cuisine; Nicholas Pagonis is the GM; Taha Ismail is the beverage director of both Kapnos and Graffiato, another Isabella restaurant in the District. Maybe these guys are even partners - who knows? Another little point of interest before I get to the important stuff: everyone mentioned above falls not far from the Andrés' family tree. They all get to wet their beak a little bit, if you know what I mean.



The first time I tasted Mike's food was at Zaytinya, soon after Significant Eater got her job in DC - and we liked everything about the place. Well, guess what? On our first visit, we liked Kapnos even more.



For starters, the restaurant had only been open for 12 days, but everyone from the hostess to the bartenders to the waitstaff was on their game. That's nice to see. And I did start at the bar, arriving early and grabbing one of the few empty seats...cocktails are fairly priced (for now) at $12, with extremely cutesy names like my Keebler Elf, a Plymouth gin/cointreau/Cocchi American concoction in an ouzo rinsed glass, that hit the spot on an extremely warm day.



Once at table, what's better to start with than taramasolata, along with fresh from the oven flatbread?


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The tarama was nice and creamy, topped with a healthy dollop of caviar...


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That didn't last long, as we were eager to dig into these earthy and tender stewed gigandes beans...


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There's a daily "classic," and we couldn't pass it up. Keftedes, fried zucchini fritters, showed off the kitchen's fine frying technique, plain and simple...


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At one point, I think the table next to us was wondering how the two of us were eating all this food. But we'd only just begun, and even though we're not huge octopus fans (too many blah octopus dishes over the years, I guess), we had to try Kapnos' version. We weren't disappointed, as this was probably the best we'd had in years, all smoky from the grill and served with "green harissa" and eggplant...


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No stopping us now, especially once I saw Royal Red Shrimp (a sweet, tender, deepwater shrimp) on the menu. And expertly poached lobster, served over hilopites (an egg/milk pasta, cut into small squares) with mizithra (a fresh sheep's cheese). Both of these disappeared (or at least had a bite taken out of them) before I could snap a picture.



Wanting and needing (really?) some meat, we finished our savories with the marinated spring lamb, spit-roasted and served over "ancient grains." At first bite I thought the dish needed salt, but when all mixed up, it tasted just fine...


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The Chocolate Mousse cake with mastic ice cream, was a nice finish to this meal, the chocolate's bitterness cut by the not too sweet ice cream...


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Yes, we ate too much. After all, it's a brand new restaurant. Sig Eater and I don't get to go out that often together in DC (she even waved to Isabella in the kitchen, which kinda made her night). And I have a feeling that the next time I'm down in the district, we're going to be heading right back to Kapnos - there's a lot more on this menu that we want to try. And if Mike's not cooking the most exciting food in DC right now, I want to know - who is?


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Was here for an early dinner last Friday and thoroughly enjoyed everything about it. (And I was predisposed to not be a fan...)

We sat at the chef's counter so that we could watch things being plated and chat with Chef George. Bottom line for me: This is food with heart. And lovely to look at boot.

  • Eggplant spread w/flatbread: Delicious, the walnuts lent a certain extra richness to it, would definitely order again
  • Tzatziki: Interestingly topped with watermelon ice; not looking a gift horse in the mouth, but... it was good, just preferred the eggplant spread
  • Charcoal roasted fennel: I liked the combo of dates and crushed almonds with the fennel; overall a subtle dish
  • Smoky hen of the woods: Also subtle in flavor, roasted and finished perfectly
  • Spanakopita: Special every Friday; the filling was light and flavorful; lovely plating (photo)
  • Suckling pig over orzo: My favorite of the night; tender, full of flavor (photo below)
  • Baby goat over grains: I'm not a big goat person, but my friend loved this and it was his favorite of the night
  • Apple baklava: Loved this, have never had anything but traditional baklava, would definitely order again (photo)
  • Semolina cake w/grilled figs & honey: I would like simply the grilled figs in honey, good (photo)

Chef George runs a tight ship -- he was all over everyone making sure things kept moving. Mike Isabella was there, so we chatted with him, too. They said that Friday was the first day G was open -- they offered $5 sandwiches and were donating proceeds to a charity -- and they sold out of everything in 2 hours. Mike Isabella had a little plate of freshly made chicharrones brought out for us to try, YUM, sounds like it's something they will offer at G at some point. Delish.

Kapnos is now at the top of my list of favorite places in the neighborhood. Might even go back tonight.  :)

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The time I wanted for my reservation disappeared during the 5 minutes it took to confer with my husband (as did my second choice), so we are going to be there much earlier than we need to be for our later plans.  How long are meals running?  I don't want to be an obnoxious camper, but I also don't want to be back out on the street with nowhere to go either.  Are meals (2 tops) running 90 minutes?  Longer?  Shorter?  Are we going to be gumming up the works if we ask for a meal to be paced slowly?

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Unless you go for the tasting menu, because Kapnos is a "small plates concept" (nobody opens "restaurants" anymore, only "concepts"), you can control the pacing.  I like to order my dishes at place like this two at a time.  This ensures you don't over order (which is easy at Kapnos), but that's not why I do it.  It drives the servers nuts, which is fun.  I am evil, but I tip well. 

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Ate here the other night with a party of 8. This is the way to go, because that $79 Lamb Shoulder is OUTSTANDING, and you really need a big group to order it.

Tyrkaftari (feta spread), Melitzanosalata (eggplant spread) - These two were excellent - definitely on the recommended list.

Revithosalata (aka hummus) - Fine, but not better than other Mediterranean places.

Vegetables: Beets, Gingandes, Cauliflower - these were fine, not on my must order again list. Fava (yellow lentils), Fourno papatas (lemon potatoes), Greek Fries (chick pea flour discs) were all excellent.

Keftedes (Wednesday only special, fried tomato and herb galette) - Absolutely adored these.

Charred Octopus - perfectly cooked. A must order.

Duck Phyllo Pie - others liked more than me. The phyllo was perfectly prepared, but the shredded duck was too soft, and didn't really have a lot of flavor.

Too full for dessert. Total after tax and tip (before drinks) was a gentle $40pp. Definitely will return.

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Our experience here last night was so smooth, close to seamless, that it's hard to believe what a short time this restaurant has been open.  We ordered two rounds of three plates each.  My husband was still a little hungry, so he also got dessert.  I wish I could have eaten more, since I'd have liked to sample more of the menu.  So many things looked tempting, it was hard to choose as it was.  We'll just have to go back!

Timing proved not to be a problem at all.  We were there a little over an hour and a half, and nothing was too rushed or too slow.  Our server was fantastic and quite willing to work with us in selecting and pacing items.

First round:  Melitzanosalata, Tzatziki, and flatbread; Royal red shrimp.  I loved the combination of ingredients in the eggplant spread.  The tzatziki was good, but after an errant bit of jalapeno got stuck in my throat, I was wary of eating too much more of it.  I knew it had jalapenos but didn't pay them any mind until that happened.  That's of course not a problem with the tzatziki itself--I liked the idea of the hot pepper with the cool yogurt--and my husband was glad to polish the rest of it off.  He isn't so fond of shrimp but managed to eat half of the order of royal red shrimp that I wanted to try.  They are a special treat, so clean-tasting and almost sweet. That (subjectively speaking) may also have been the most beautifully plated item we got.

Next round was the Marinated Spring lamb with ancient grains; Gigandes beans; and grilled asparagus.   These all went very well together.  I wasn't exactly sure what the ancient grains were going to consist of, but they were quite enjoyable on their own, in addition to being a fine base for the spit-roasted lamb.  Lamb is one of my favorite meats, and I could have eaten more of this, except I couldn't eat more of anything ;) .  The beans are something I usually order when I see them on a menu, and these were especially well-prepared and a perfect texture.  The oniony sauce for the gigande beans was sopworthy but we no longer had any bread left.  The asparagus was grilled just to the right degree, and the sun-dried tomatoes and feta made perfect accompaniments.  All the food was delicious and beautiful.  No complaints.

Dessert was the apple baklava (thanks for the recommendation, Night Owl).  My husband polished it off in short order.  He said the apple flavor was more pronounced in the sorbet than in the baklava. (I asked him if he was going to lick the plate.  It was close.)

We drank a lot of water (or at least I did), which our server kept regularly refilled.  I also had a draft DC Brau and my husband enjoyed the preserved lemonade.  Lemonade is something he often orders and is often disappointed in, but not this.

Service was excellent.  The only hiccup the entire night was when we got new plates for our second round of food, the plates had not been cleaned very well. When brought to his attention, our server agreed and quickly replaced them with spotlessly clean ones.  That was it, the only glitch in the entire experience.  Well, that and we were underdressed.  We were headed to the 930 Club and it was sporadically rainy, so we dressed for that. Most people were better dressed than we were, for a Saturday night out at a hot new restaurant.  We'll spruce ourselves up a bit next time.  (I will say, this is only my own self-consciousness about this.  No one working at the restaurant seemed to care what we were wearing.)

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Have been back a couple of times since my last visit, am impressed with how consistently excellent the food, service, etc., has been. A few highlights:

  • Taramsalata: So light and airy, salty-savory at the perfect level -- this and the melitzanosalata eggplant spread are favorites
  • Charred Octopus: Tender with that wonderful char, and just the right amount of heat from the green harissa
  • Moussaka: The special on Mondays... GET IT... tender, tender eggplant, meat sauce so full of flavor, a hefty small plate without being heavy. Delicious.

Oh -- and I realize this belongs in the G thread, but -- while at Kapnos last night, I asked Mike Isabella where the chicharrones were on the G menu because I didn't see it (he had given us a sinful, warm, crispy, crunchy, luscious couple of samples on a previous visit to Kapnos) -- turns out it's in the Cuban sandwich, just not listed on the menu. A secret ingredient. That's enough of a reason for me to order the Cuban there. :)

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I went here last night and sat at the bar, which was almost entirely empty.  On balance both the drinks and food were delicious (I recommend the Gonzo cocktail and the Gin Lemonade; the Picasso cocktail was only okay).

For food I had the Bronzino, the Clams, the Suckling Pig, and the Smoky Beets.  I thought the Bronzino was excellent, although it's fairly high-acid and someone who doesn't like acid as much as I do might have a different reaction.  I also thought the suckling pig was absolutely delicious, particularly with the orzo that accompanied it.  The clams were the one miss of my meal; I felt the flavors of the clams got lost in the sauce, and it was heavier than I expected.  I opted for the smoky beets instead of dessert, and it was a great choice: the beets were extremely tasty and the dish as a whole was well-balanced and well-composed.

I really like this place, and I'm looking forward to going back and trying the tasting menu.  If there are seats routinely available at the bar, this might be a weekly destination.

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If there are seats routinely available at the bar, this might be a weekly destination.

I can't comment on routinely, but when two of us stopped in on this past Friday night (around 9 pm) we were able to sit down immediately at the bar. We were afraid that we'd end up having to try to or three restaurants before finding space for us in that neighborhood.

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I am skeptical of a lot of things, especially celebrity chef restaurants that open to a lot of fanfare.  Even though I really liked my visits to Graffiato and Bandolero, I didn't think that Kapnos could be as good as everyone says it is.  But alas, Kapnos really is that good, maybe even better than that.

Our server was solid, but unspectacular.  And maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't order the tyrokaftari again, but other than those two miniscule complaints, there is absolutely nothing else negative I can say about our experience last night (unless having a hard time pronouncing many of the dishes counts).

When you go to a restaurant and order 21 items (food and cocktails) and you would only consider not ordering one item (tyrokaftari) again, I would say that is not just a home run, but a grand slam.  Tzatziki, taramasalata (incredible!), stone baked flatbread, royal red shrimp, farm house vegetable salad, spicy watermelon, gigandes (huge fan!), greek fries, poached lobster (perfect pasta), marinated spring lamb, suckling pig (stand out), roasted duck, spit roasted chicken (incredible value), chocolate mousse cake, cookies, gonzo, papadapolous (I miss Webster), Hollywood (perfection), rum lemonade and game face.

Incredible, freakin incredible.

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A week ago, five hungry friends and I pre-ordered the whole roasted lamb shoulder and despite our best efforts, three of us took leftovers home. It's a lot of food, but moist and delicious and flavorful. Also tried the duck phyllo pie which was outstanding. Close to edging the octopus out for my favorite dish there.

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Do you know what else is slated for Liberty Center?  All I've heard about is another Taylor Gourmet.  Excited for a version of Kapnos.

They were tweeting about a wine shop and were asking for input on what to occupy the marvelous market space, as well, but I don't think anything new has been signed, at least not that I can find.  ARL Now is normally pretty on it, surprised Liberty Center hasn't tweeted about it, although I don't think they are very active on twitter.

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The media has been played like fiddles, as usual. Or ... were they? (Symbiosis and all that ...)

Don - You kill me when you drop a little nugget like this!

What do you mean and can explain it in a little more detail for those of us who are not on the inside?  I think I get it on the most basic level, but I don't understand your issue.  A big name DC chef is opening another new place and the media reports it............isn't that how the news is supposed to work?  How is this different from all the press the Ashby Inn has received lately?

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Don - You kill me when you drop a little nugget like this!

What do you mean and can explain it in a little more detail for those of us who are not on the inside?  I think I get it on the most basic level, but I don't understand your issue.  A big name DC chef is opening another new place and the media reports it............isn't that how the news is supposed to work?  How is this different from all the press the Ashby Inn has received lately?

Bart, when you say a "big name DC chef," I'd ask you to consider why Mike wasn't a big name when he was running the kitchen at Zaytinya.

Likewise why José wasn't a big name when he was running a kitchen in San Diego (and now there's this).

Here's a fairly glowing Washington Post review of Kapnos from September 4th, with no mention of any expansion. Do you think that a deal for a 5,000-square-foot restaurant was just worked out in the past seven days?

I don't fault anyone in the industry for any of this, least of all Mike or José, but sometimes I wonder whether I'm the only person in the world who isn't blind; or, whether I'm the only person in the world who is.

Nobody was more masterful at controlling the media than Citronelle. Do I blame them for that? Absolutely not.

It's interesting because just today, I heard a jaw-dropping story - completely unrelated to any of this - about bribery involving restaurateurs and "journalistic" publications.

Yes, folks, you're being manipulated. Big time.

Just calling it as I see it.

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Bart, when you say a "big name DC chef," I'd ask you to consider why Mike wasn't a big name when he was running the kitchen at Zaytinya.

Likewise why José wasn't a big name when he was running a kitchen in San Diego (and now there's this).

Here's a fairly glowing Washington Post review of Kapnos from September 4th, with no mention of any expansion. Do you think that a deal for a 5,000-square-foot restaurant was just worked out in the past seven days?

I don't fault anyone in the industry for any of this, least of all Mike or José, but sometimes I wonder whether I'm the only person in the world who isn't blind; or, whether I'm the only person in the world who is.

Nobody was more masterful at controlling the media than Citronelle. Do I blame them for that? Absolutely not.

It's interesting because just today, I heard a jaw-dropping story - completely unrelated to any of this - about bribery involving restaurateurs and "journalistic" publications.

Yes, folks, you're being manipulated. Big time.

Just calling it as I see it.

Don, I love this site, think you're a great guy, and you know far more about the DC restaurant scene than I ever will.

With that said, these semi-regular conspiracy theories would have far more weight if you ever actually included any details/specifics/proof that wasn't wildly speculative.

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Don, I love this site, think you're a great guy, and you know far more about the DC restaurant scene than I ever will.

With that said, these semi-regular conspiracy theories would have far more weight if you ever actually included any details/specifics/proof that wasn't wildly speculative.

I appreciate the sediment.

With that, the sun will rise in the morning. And no, I can't prove it. Nor is anyone willing to go to the mat for me in order to verify my conspiracy theories about that god damned sun. The paranoia is part of my charm, sort of like the smell of the subway wafting up from the grates on the hard streets of New York City which, to me, is infinitely more charming than the smell of Subway wafting down the block from the hard streets of Bethesda.

I can also tell you that a major restaurant is on the selling block, asking for 8 figures (and they're not going to get it) - sorry, can't name names.

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Haven't yet tried Kapnos. Wasn't a big Graffiato fan (posted as such on that thread some months ago). Never tried Bandolero before Isabella exited.

Those qualifiers issued,

- We were at Graffiato more recently and I really need to post an update on that thread. It was night-and-day better than what I'd experienced in a first visit not too soon after they'd opened.  Not exceptional/outstanding but very good and fairly priced.

- Based on this thread alone, Kapnos is high on my list now. Thank you all.

- Is Kapnos head-and-shoulders better than Nostos?  I ask because I'm headed to Nostos in a few days for a first visit.  Has anyone been to both in the past 4-6 months who could compare/contrast them?

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Bart, when you say a "big name DC chef," I'd ask you to consider why Mike wasn't a big name when he was running the kitchen at Zaytinya.

Likewise why José wasn't a big name when he was running a kitchen in San Diego (and now there's this).

Here's a fairly glowing Washington Post review of Kapnos from September 4th, with no mention of any expansion. Do you think that a deal for a 5,000-square-foot restaurant was just worked out in the past seven days?

I don't fault anyone in the industry for any of this, least of all Mike or José, but sometimes I wonder whether I'm the only person in the world who isn't blind; or, whether I'm the only person in the world who is.

Don -  Maybe I'm just dense, but I still don't get it.

In my view from the cheap seats, Mike Isabella wasn't a "big name DC chef" when he was at Zaytinya because he was just a hired gun back then.  He didn't do Top Chef yet, he didn't open a couple of his own restaurants.  Same thing with Jose Andres.  Are you really surprised he wasn't a media darling when he was a 23 year old cutting his teeth at some unknown place in California?

That's like being outraged that no one was interviewing Paul McCartney when he was a teenager...........he hadn't done anything yet.  Why would anyone care?

What am I missing?  Are we talking past each other?

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Care to elaborate?

And back to your original post, what is the implication of the Kapnos review coming out a couple weeks ago and Isabella announing a new place this week?  I could see you raising an eyebrow if they did mention it in the review, but if they knew about it, not mentioning it seems like the ethically correct thing to do.

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After making and cancelling at least two different reservations at Kapnos, we finally got there for dinner Saturday night.They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and Kapnos nearly lost us at hello.

Allow me to set the scene... Perhaps you recall that it rained basically all of last week. Arriving a few minutes before our 8:30 reservation and feeling frugal we drove around the block a few times looking for a parking spot and finding none, we decided to suck it up and just valet. So, we follow the instructions in our City Eats reservation and pull up in front of the W Street entrance where they allegedly have valet parking nightly after 5:30 pm for $15.  But after sitting there like fools for a few minutes it is increasingly clear no valet was there. Perhaps Kapnos' valet was furloughed in the shutdown?  I run inside and it is confirmed, "no valet tonight". We should park across the street in the pay lot and tell them that we were going to Kapnos, they would give us a discount. This is highly irritating, probably also a violation of their ABRA agreement. So we debate if we should bag the reservation and just get a chivito at Fast Gourmet. But at this point it is nearly 8:45 so we pull into the lot across the street.  Perplexed and nonplussed would best describe the look on the guys face when we told him we were going to Kapnos and asked for a discount.  Needless to say, no discount.

So now it is 8:45 and we are told that people are lingering and our table isn't ready. They suggest we wait in the bar. Except the bar is totally packed. Waiters are trying to deliver food to tables.  LOTS of people are waiting for tables. So we push our way in to the far end of the bar by the 14th street door and order two cocktails-  a kegged lemonade with gin and a mustachio. They were both enjoyable and this helps to take the edge of annoyance off. But now it is after 9 pm and we still haven't heard from them. So drinks in hand we shove our way back towards the host stand and ask about our table. Still not ready, but soon. There are a number of manager looking dudes walking around looking stressed. Right about 9:15 we are seated.

They seat us in the back of the restaurant and luckily it is both cooler and quieter.  Our waitress is friendly and efficient. Someone else swings by the table with water and comments that we must have been waiting in the bar since we already had drinks.  My menu is different from my husband's. We realize this as we are discussing what to order. Is it arctic char on the menu or halibut? This creates conditions that causes one to question the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives. We ask the waitress and learn that somehow I got an old copy of the menu with halibut on it. No harm done and the food and cocktail that comes out of the kitchen was all very enjoyable if not outright excellent. In particular the taramasalata, smokey arctic char and suckling pig. We were too stuffed for desert.

So here's the thing. At no point did they actually do more than shrug and actually apologize to us for the fact that we had to wait almost 45 minutes for our table or that they didn't actually have valet when they said they would.  We debated this point the whole way home- should they have comped us a round of drinks or offered a free dessert? By no means do we feel it was required, but it certainly would have been a nice gesture. All in all, despite the enjoyable food and drink we're in no rush to return.

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Nothing like sheets of rain, no parking, crowded restaurant and late seating to put a frustrating pall on the whole experience.

...which gives me another reason to only go early and only sit at the chef's counter -- so far, it's been a wonderful time, every time.

Went again last night and ordered the Wednesday special, keftedes -- this week was octopus keftedes.  W O W .  Perfectly crunchy outside, incredibly tender, light and flavorful inside. With a swipe of chickpea puree and dabbles of little golden raisins. Delicious. If you're there when it's on the menu, it's a must-try.

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First visit to Kapnos tonight; a business dinner.  I won't detail everything because it wouldn't add a lot to the collective experience upthread.

Will just say that we all really enjoyed it.  The smoke and flavor on dishes ranging from the suckling pig and lamb to the spit-roasted chicken, sampler of spreads and even the humble dolmades were all excellent.

The server had us a bit feeling like we were playing culinary twister at one point early explaining how flat breads and spreads worked (key piece of information missing is that each flatbread is large and easily enough for two people) but, on balance, the service was very good.

I didn't pay so can't comment very specifically but the value seems right for the quality and portioning and prices moderate. Will definitely go back. Still not sure what I think of Mike Isabella but definitely evolving.  Really didn't like Graffiato the first time.  Thought is surprising better on a second visit some months later. This first visit to Kapnos was very successful.  Maybe Mr. Isabella will prove to be that most rare of species: the multi-unit restauranteur putting out excellent food at reasonable prices consistently across locations and time. Jury still out but trending positively with the big thumbs up on Kapnos.

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Just saw they are expanding to Ballston's Liberty Center (across from the mall and erstwhile location of Leeks) in 2014.  Isabella cannot be stopped.

eta: countdown until it has to be moved to Rocks' dreaded multiple locations list.

[i'm still game to take the top 20, 30, 50 restaurants in that list and distribute them - *if* I can find someone to do it for me!

I envision it looking something like this:]

14UP (14th St between U and P Streets)

Cork Wine Bar - website - Our city's greatest wine bar, wonderful bar area, charismatic hands-on owners, chef change as of April 24, 2012

Doi Moi website - Southeastern Asian by the owners of Proof and Estadio, I haven't yet been here, but the chances are it will be very good

Ghibellina - website - Only one visit for happy hour, but oh, what a visit, Ghibellina may just have the best pizza in the DC area right now

Etto - website - I've heard mostly wonderful things about Etto (essentially, very similar to 2 Amys), but this ranking can only be considered an educated guess

Estadio (Review) - website - Traditional Spanish tapas, bustling crowds, excellent front of the house, deceptively expensive, cooking has been mostly good with some inconsistencies.

Le Diplomate - website - 14UP's newest Starr, DC's first real brasserie DC since the early days of Les Halles, classic casual French

Garden District (formerly Standard) website - One of the more underrated restaurants in the city, nobody talks about Garden District, yet it's very good and worth exploring

2 Birds 1 Stone - website - A basement lounge with drinks by Adam Bernbach, funding by Mark Kuller - it will be hard to go wrong here

G Sandwich - Facebook - A sandwich shop from the owners of Kapnos, wood-roasted meats, tasting menus, Sunday night gravy menu

Cafe Saint-Ex - website

Posto - website

Masa 14 (Review) - website

Bar Pilar - website

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace (Minibite) - website

Black Whiskey - website

Black Jack - website - The upstairs bar of Pearl Dive, bocce ball court, separate whimsically written menu, late night, and late-late night menus

BakeHouse - website - @BakeHouseDC - An independent bakery with a good, progressive coffee and tea program

Taqueria Nacional - website

Rice - website

Policy - website

Hanoi House (formerly Blackbyrd) - website

Drafting Table - website - @DraftingTableDC

From the Multiple Locations Guide: See Kapnos, Etc. Etc. Etc., and Etc. <---------------------

Tryst/Diner Venture - 1840 14th. St. - Not Opening

Mid City Caffe - 1626 14th. St. - Closed

[No, it's not perfect, but at least every important restaurant will be in one place. I'm not going to go around "ranking" individual locations of chains, so this is the best I can offer. Given that this is the one, and only, complaint with the Dining Guide - and it happens often - I think it's better than what we have now.]

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We had a really nice birthday dinner for my husband here.  First I had exceptional service pre-dining.  I emailed to see if we could get a reservation, immediate email back, then when my in-laws wanted a different time they accommodated it well.  The in-laws were at first a little un-sure about the menu, but turned out really liking it. We had: olives- they had a nice spice to them, farmhouse salad (two) which was fresh, but not exceptional the onions were a little strong, I didn't eat the cheese, we had the hummus and taziki sauce with flatbread which were both good, the duck phyllo pie was again exceptional, maybe the must order here, the chicken for the table was a bit deceiving as the menu said split roasted chicken which makes you think you get a whole chicken which seems appropriate, but it was only a half chicken it was very juicy and I liked the flavor though.  We had the lamb which had a nice caramelization on the outside and I liked the grains, Matt and I had this before, but this time it was just a bit better in flavor and roast pig which was juicy and was over orzo pesto.  The desserts were the least satisfying, the clementine sorbet was the best part.  I had the fritters, they were fine, Hubby's apple baklava was ok, but he didn't love it he offered me more bites than normal.  He also got rosewater sorbet with it that was really lovely, maybe the best bite.  I didn't try the mouse cake, it may have been better.  But overall the meal was really nice. Maybe a little pricey for the serving size, but not really out of line for DC.  Anyway it was nice to get his parents to try some new things and a new restaurant!

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