August 1, 2013


With all the delicious restaurants in DC, it's rare that we go back to the same place multiple times.  Mike Isabella has done something special at his first restaurant, Graffiato, and it's one of our all-time favorites, so when he opened a Greek spot, Kapnos, we knew we had to try it.  We've always wanted to try the tasting menu at Graffiato, and since this was a special occasion, we decided to splurge and try it at Kapnos.  We turned over control to the kitchen, and let them make all the decisions for us.  We just sat back, relaxed, and waited for dishes to roll in!

Let's start with drinks.  They have a trio of kegged lemonades, each with a different liquor.  Justin started with the gin lemonade, which also had a slice of grilled lemon, batavia arrack, honey, thyme, and soda.  It had a slight sweetness to balance out the tartness of the lemon, and was quite refreshing.  I started with the mustachio, pisco-based drink with house made ginger beer, maraschino, angostura bitters, and lime.  It came in a copper mug with pellet ice (I have a thing for pellet ice), and was quite tasty.  Maraschino can sometimes be too sweet, but the ginger beer and lime cut the sweetness.

For our first course, we were presented with a bowl of marinated olives, and two spreads, the tyrokaftarl and the melitzanosalata, served with warm flatbread.  The tyrokaftarl was the clear favorite.  The feta, smoked manori (greek sheeps mil cheese), and yogurt combined for a rich and creamy spread.  It was topped with thin slices of serrano pepper and grains of paradise, which gave it the perfect amount of heat.  The melitzanosalata, a spread of smoky eggplant, roasted red peppers, walnuts and feta, had a nice sweetness to it, and was a great counterbalance to the cheese spread.

The second course consisted of a couple salads.  The first, and our favorite, was the spicy watermelon salad.  Slices of compressed watermelon were lined up and topped with pickled watermelon rind, and shaved fennel.  The watermelon was super sweet with just the right amount of spiciness.  The other salad consisted of roasted fennel, arugula, dates, and almonds.  The fennel was rather sweet, from being roasted, and not the usual anise flavor you get with fresh fennel.

At this point, it was time for round 2 of drinks.  I took our server's suggestion and tried the papadapolous, made with skinos, a Greek liquer made from from the Mastiha tree.  She described it as piney and nutty, and since I like gin, I figured I'd give it a try.  She did not steer me wrong!  It had a nice tartness from the grapefruit, but was balanced out by some honey.  If you're not careful, you could drink it in one big gulp.  Justin went with the gonzo, a drink made with genever, aquavit, spiced honey, and lemon.  He likened it to a lemon gin martini.

Course three consisted primarily of seafood.  We were really excited to try out the charred octopus, since it's one of our favorite dishes at both Graffiato and Zaytinya (Isabella's former kitchen).  The octopus was served with green harissa and eggplant.  The octopus was cooked perfectly, with a nice char, and the harissa added a subtle spiciness.  We were also served the clams, a mix of razor clams, geoduck clams, and salt cod.  The sauce was citrusy and fresh, but we could've used more clams, and less cod.  The halibut made up for it though, sitting atop a bed of sauteed garlic and leeks, in an avgolemono sauce.  The halibut was moist and flaky with a golden crust.  The garlic, and leeks were confited but didn't become overly mushy, and lemon sauce were the perfect compliment to the protein.

For the fourth course, we finally got to try one of the spit-roasted meats that were taunting us as they rotated before our eyes through the evening.  We had the lamb, served with some ancient grains, tzatziki, and harissa.  The lamb was perfectly tender.  Because of the charring and slow roasting didn't have the expected gamey, lamb taste.  The ancient grains didn't add much for me.  I would've preferred no grains, and more meat!  We were also served the duck phyllo pie with cherries and pureed pistachios.  The phyllo was only a couple layers thick, golden brown, and crispy.  The duck was extremely flavorful, though a bit on the salty side, so the cherries helped balance out the salt.  It was served with a pistachio puree, which had a bit too much heat and detracted from the dish.  Along with the lamb and duck, we had the gigandes, or giant beans.  They were tasty, but I would've preferred a different vegetable--we will have to go back and try the hen of the woods mushrooms and/or Greek Fries.

And if all that weren't enough, we still had dessert to come!  We dug our forks into the chocolate mousse
cake with mastic ice cream, and the apple baklava with apple ginger ice cream.  Let's start with the mousse.  It wasn't a cake at all.  Instead, the mousse was formed into a long rectangle, like a candy bar, and had a thin, chocolate coating covering it with a crunchy bottom, reminiscent of a Nestle Crunch bar.  It was quite rich and decadent, though the mousse was extremely light and fluffy, and the cherry sauce added some sweetness to the dish.  There were also a few cherry jelly cubes, which I wasn't a huge fan of.  However, the mastic ice cream was a hit.  Mastic is made from the sap of the same tree that skinos is made from, and it had a piney nutmeg taste.  It was delicious!  The apple baklava was my favorite though.  I tend to prefer fruit desserts over chocolates, and this was no exception.  Baklava tends to be cloyingly sweet, so the apples added a nice tartness to balance it out.  The apple ginger ice cream had a nice spice to it as well, adding another layer of flavor to the dish.

Overall, it was a great meal.  The service was wonderful, and the food was great.  If you have a big appetite, and aren't sure what to order, I highly recommend the tasting menu.  We were able to try a variety of dishes, many of which were dishes we probably would've chosen on our own.  We can't wait to go back to try the suckling pig and roasted goat!

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