Kapnos by Mike Isabella

If you’re craving great spreads, warm bread, oven spit-roasted meats, seafood and more, all with a Greek inspired flare, then head to Kapnos. Celebrity Chef Mike Isabella struck gold by bringing a high-end twist to Greek cuisine, lacking on the ever popular U Street / 14th Street corridor. The small plate style is great for sharing, the vibe is fun, loud without being overbearing; perfect for a fun casual date or a large group celebration.

For starters, warm flatbread is paired perfectly with any number of spreads.

From homemade hummus to refreshing tzatziki, they are all perfect for starting the meal and very easy to share. We opted for a rich creamy cheese spread with thinly shaved red onions, sliced jalapenos, fresh cracked black pepper, and dill. The spice and the contrast of the red onion paired perfect against the rich cheese.

From their “barely raw mezze” options the lamb tartare with tomato, eggplant, and little fried mizithra (cheese) croquettes were calling our names. The Greek’s are known for their ingenious lamb preparations. This lamb tartare was very fresh, not at all gamey or wild tasting. The onion in the tartare was not overpowering and the fried cheese bites made for a nice accompaniment. Overall a great and visually stunning dish.

When we were there the menu offered a scallop dish that was underwhelming if we’re being nice. The scallops were completely raw on the inside, with a burnt, bitter char that was extremely off putting. We informed the waiter, it was graciously taken off the tab, and the dish is no longer being served on the menu. This is the mark of a smart restaurant. However it was very visually appealing as you can see.

The next three dishes were all amazing, and produced from their signature wood fired grill. First, the goat. The spice rubbed baby goat with savoy cabbage, black-eyed peas, and a red pepper relish (for lack of a better term) was perfect. Crispy edges with a perfect char, tender, not at all gamey goat meat with a delightful earthy taste. On a creamy bed of cooling traditional tzatziki sauce; if you like grilled chicken with crispy edges, and have never had goat, this is a perfect dish to venture outside of your comfort zone.

Next, the suckling baby pig served over orzo, dill, orange, red onion on a traditional bed of tzatziki sauce is one of my favorite pork dishes in DC. The way their wood fired grill can caramelize the naturally sweet pork, and char the edges, while not drying out the meat is amazing. Essentially a Greek pig picking on a plate.

Last from the wood grill was the charred octopus  with preserved lemon-chili glaze, fennel, stonefruit, pesto and capers. If you love grilled octopus, don’t miss out on this dish. The octopus is tender, and not at all fishy or chewy. Very delicate dish.

To round out the meal, we ordered traditional Greek loukoumades which are like small donuts. Crispy fried fritters with pistachio and spiced honey drizzle where sweet, and very light. The fried delicate and airy puffs are just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth at the end of a great meal.

I’m shocked by how many people I talk to about Kapnos who have still never been. What are you waiting for? Go!

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