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Mike Isabella’s Kapnos: Even Better than Graffiato?

15 Jul

We had the pleasure of stopping by opening night of Mike Isabella’s Kapnos (2201 14th Street, NW) on opening night, July 5th.  Even ten days later, we are still savoring the taste of perhaps the best dinner we have had all year.  While Isabella’s first restaurant, Graffiato, may have been a more anticipated opening in the media, Kapnos is already giving Graffiato a run for its money (and this is coming from huge fans of Graffiato).

Kapnos is located on the corner of 14th and W Streets, a block north of U Street on the first floor of a new apartment complex.  The restaurant features a beautiful open kitchen that enables the diner to enjoy a full view of the show that goes into the preparation of their dinner.  On opening night, Isabella himself helmed the kitchen and inspected every dish prior to it being sent out to the table.

We started dinner with one of Isabella’s kegged lemonades, a specialty of the house according to our waiter.  While the second round had more fizz than the first round, both were a refreshing break from the hot and humid D.C. night that we had just come in from outside.  In addition to the three versions of kegged lemonade, Kapnos has an extensive wine list and an in house sommelier (something our waiter pointed out several times) as well as many different cocktails.

Like his other two restaurants, the menu at Kapnos is divided up into categories of tapas.  To sample the menu fully, we tried at least one from each category (a tasting menu is also available for a reasonable $65 a person).  To begin our feast, we started with two of the spreads: a standard tzatziki and the melitzanosalata.  The tzatziki was good, but the melitzanosalata, a smokey combination of eggplant, feta, and red peppers stole the show.  Next we moved on to the “barely raw mezze” where we chose the bronzino.  The Mediterranean fish was cured in a cucumber dill sauce and topped with two small slivers of the fish’s skin that had been lightly fried and tasted almost like slightly crunchier popcorn.

Smoky Beets at Kapnos

Smoky Beets at Kapnos

To pretend to be healthy, we tripled up on the vegetable section by ordering the asparagus, the beets, and the potatoes (the greek fries “vegetable” dish was not available opening night).  In this section, the asparagus, lightly grilled with lemon rind and served with a generous helping of sundried tomatoes and feta, was transformed from a good but sometimes overused and forgettable summer vegetable into a stellar dish that we hope to replicate at home sometime soon.  The smoky beets featured an interesting contrast between the spice of the green peppercorn crisp and the citrusy yogurt they were served with.  While beets may be over featured on menus across town currently, you definitely don’t want to miss out on this delicious and unique preparation at Kapnos. Continue reading