Mike Isabella’s new Greek restaurant Kapnos has gotten a lot of buzz for its roasting spit and meaty fare. But the first thing our server pointed out as we sat down was that a good half of the menu is suitable for vegetarians. The second thing I learned was that the cocktails at Kapnos are worth the price tag. “Smells like a doughnut” is the restaurant’s take on a G&T, an addictive combination of Hendricks, house-made tonic, a splash of Greek brandy, and some fresh herbs just for fun. So far, so good!
We started with tyrokafteri, a smooth tangy blend of feta and smoked manori, a Greek cheese described to us as pecorino-like. The spread was topped with thin slivers of crunchy radishes, spicy chilis, and fresh dill, providing the perfect kick to perk up the cream. While not as, er, flashy, as Cava Mezze’s flaming cheese, Kapnos’ tyrokafteri would definitely make the roster on my fantasy all-star league of cheese-based dishes.
We also ordered traditional melitzanosalata, or smoked eggplant spread, which was well done but perhaps less exciting than some of the other appetizers might have been, like charcoal roasted fennel with dates or spicy watermelon (next time!).
From the sizeable ‘garden mezze’ section we settled on gigandes (giant lima beans), cauliflower, and chickpea fries. The beans were not at all what I expected, having had them prepared with lots of tomato, feta, and dill in the past. Here they sat in a delicate leek sauce whose flavor was amplified by a sprinkling of striking black onion seeds:
The effect was creamy and mild without being overly fatty. The same went, shockingly, for chickpea fries. They were light and pillowy inside and crisp on the outside, all without a trace of oil.
The cauliflower was another surprise – although ‘tomato’ was in the description I expected something burnt rather than a rich stew. The overall effect, complete with chickpeas and fenugreek, was reminiscent of Indian food. I licked the bowl clean.
As far as comparing Kapnos to Mike Isabella’s other restaurant Graffiato, the vegetarian experience at Kapnos is more exciting than Graffiato’s pretty standard fare. I’ve never left Graffiato dreaming of the dishes on the menu I passed up, while our first taste of Kapnos has us looking forward to returning. We didn’t make it to dessert, and considering all of the other vegetable dishes I’ve still got my eye on – we haven’t even discussed fava beans with corn and spinach or smoky beets – it might not happen next time either!
2201 14th St NW