While it’s been nearly two years since our honeymoon in Greece, our love affair with the country’s cuisine has never been fonder. And while it’s a little challenging to find a frappé in the states (one with Nescafe, mind you, not that McDonald’s concoction), the DC area boats some terrific Mediterranean food.
A few weeks ago, we met with two of our friends for dinner at the original Cava Mezze in Rockville. If my numbers are correct, this was our third visit to this particular Greek establishment, although we have yet to try out their Capitol Hill location. As soon as we were seated, the table was given a basket of their freshly baked pita as well as a plate of olives, olive oil, and their spicy harissa dip.
If you’re not familiar with Cava, their menu is focused around small plates, or mezze. From beef to seafood to lamb to a multitude of veggie options, it’s a great selection for even the pickiest of eaters. They usually recommend two to three dishes per person to start out with, and if you’re still hungry, the plates come out very swiftly.
We started the evening out by splitting a bowl of their roasted eggplant dip as well as a dish of fried calamari. Rachel and I are a fan of all of Cava’s spread, and their babaganoush is no exception.
From there, the plates started piling up as the waiter kept bringing us dishes at a continuous pace. Their lollipop chicken is one my favorites. Fried and dipped in honey and walnuts, it’s a sweet and savory concoction that’s also highly addictive.
Cava’s zucchini fritters take us back to Mykonos where we first fell in love with them. Blended with aged feta and sitting on a mound of tzatziki, they almost look like falafel balls at first glance. While they’re not bad, we’re still partial to the ones found at Yamas in Bethesda.
Speaking of falafel, we also ordered their Chickpea 3 Ways. Each falafel ball is under a bed of hummus and then topped with a different chickpea-blended topping.
Up next was the Cava Half Smoke, a Greek homage to DC of sorts. The spicy beef sausage was cut into two pieces, topped with tzatziki and marinated tomato, and served with a side of fries. While it doesn’t necessarily fit the Greek mold of Cava, it was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.
Of course, we never fail to order at least one dish that features Cava’s succulent Greek ragu – on this occasion it was their disco fries. The bowl of hand-cut fries was mixed with shreds of veal and sprinkled with kefalograviera cheese.
Opting for a more traditional dish, Cava puts its own unique spin on moussaka. Instead of one heaping slice a la lasagna, Cava serves up three small patties, each layered with braised lamb, eggplant, béchamel, and topped with truffled crumbs.
And last but not least, the baby octopus. Cava always has a knack for knocking this one out of the park. The grilled octopus, which was accompanied with fava puree and a tomato & onion vinaigrette, is chopped into small pieces and was incredibly tender.
While the dimly lit dining room can get loud and crowded during peak hours, the service doesn’t miss a beat. The kitchen is consistently churning out plates with minimal delay. What’s great about Cava is that they also sell prepackaged versions of their housemade dips and spreads, which can be found at places such as Whole Foods and Rodman’s. Our favorite tends to be the spicy hummus, which is essentially a mixture of their original hummus combined with harissa.
Cava is one of our favorites when it comes to Greek fare, or even tapas for that matter. To put it another way, it’s the best of both worlds.