Rachel and I were excited to try Mike Isabella’s latest venture, Kapnos, so we jumped at the chance when friends of our made reservations for a Saturday night a few weeks ago. Situated in the dining hotbed of the 14th Street corridor, Kapnos features a small plates menu that is centrally focused around Northern Greek cuisine.
Before even arriving, Kapnos already has a distinct advantage: they take reservations (via CityEats). Compared to many new 14th Street eateries where tables are first-come, first-serve, this was a refreshing change of pace and great for those who don’t live in U Street and are unable to stroll in on a moment’s notice.
When we walked in, we immediately noticed the two massive spits in the open kitchen, slowly rotating the chicken, duck, lamb, goat, and suckling pig that have been roasting all day.
Given how unbearably humid it was outside that Saturday night, the four of us started the evening with a pitcher of their homemade kegged lemonades. The Skinos Lemonade featured Skinos, a liqueur made from a Greek tree, watermelon, tarragon, and lemon. Incredibly refreshing, it was also just as overpriced at $42 for a rather small pitcher. I’m not one to usually complain about drink prices, but I felt that this was rather excessive. That didn’t stop us from getting two pitchers though, since like I said, they were ridiculously good and refreshing.
We decided to split a duo of housemade spreads – the tzatziki and melitzanosalata (eggplant dip). The former was light and refreshing while the latter featured a good amount of smokiness. Not to be outdone was the piping hot, fluffy flatbread that accompanied the spreads. Spreading the smoky eggplant over the fresh bread made for a great appetizer.
Up next was one of our favorite dishes of the evening, the roasted duck phyllo pie. Flaky on the outside and tender in the inside, Rachel and I only wished there was more of it. And for what equated to be two small pieces, there should have at least been a third give the $13 price tag.
The smoky beets were another hit amongst our group, albeit a little hard to share. Featuring yogurt, green peppercorn, and citrus, this made for a quality summer dish.
The clams dish from the “Barely Raw Mezze” portion of the menu was probably one of my least favorite dishes of the evening. Prepared with cod belly, wild onion, and dill pollen and atop a bed of salt, the flavors didn’t really work for me.
On the flipside, the braised cauliflower was terrific. Featuring tomato, chickpeas, and fenugreek, the entire table really enjoyed this vegetable dish and the sauce was great to sop up with the pita bread.
The main highlight, however, might have been the charred octopus. Prepared with green harissa and eggplant, each bite transported us back to Mykonos when we were on our honeymoon. Just wonderfully executed.
The poached lobster was a bit of a letdown given how little meat there was. Prepared with hilopites pasta, tomato, and mizithra, the dish itself was fine but the lack of lobster put a damper on it as a whole.
Meanwhile, you can’t go wrong with their meats from the wood-fire grills. We tried both the suckling pig and the spiced baby goat. Both were tender and succulent, though I enjoyed the suckling pig a little more personally.
The desserts look delicious but we were full at that point and decided to call it a night.
As for the service, our waiter was very helpful in helping us what to order given his knowledge of the menu. If there was one thing I would have to nitpick about, it would be the prices. I’m not going to go into a small plates tirade, but when the cost of some these dishes amounts to an entrée at another establishment, it means the menu is overpriced.
For instance, the lobster dish had two tiny pieces of meat in it, and it was $19. A lobster roll from Red Pound is four dollars less and is overflowing with lobster meat. I know I’m comparing a full-service restaurant to a food truck, but you get this gist of it. Maybe we were just craving simple steak frites at the time. It’s not to say the food wasn’t good, but next time we go out I’m looking forward to my own plate of meat.