14th and W Street, NW
From a press release:
“On July 5, Chef Mike Isabella will open Kapnos, his third Washington restaurant, on the bustling 14th street corridor (2201 14th St. NW). An ode to Northern Greece, the Kapnos menu will feature spit-roasted whole animals and shareable mezze plates that range from smoked mushrooms and ferno patates to raw spot prawns and charred octopus. The interior design of the 160-seat restaurant is heavily influenced by Isabella’s travels through Northern Greece and the former Macedonian empire, with warm earth tones accented by Byzantine detailing, whimsical floor art and custom lighting made from suspended wine glasses and bottles.
“I’ve been cooking Greek food for a large part of my career, and with Kapnos I really wanted to show a different side of Greek cooking in D.C.,” says chef/owner Mike Isabella. “That’s why we’ll be spit-roasting whole animals every day – it’s a taste of Northern Greece, and a different way of enjoying a cuisine that a lot of people think they already know.”
The dining room at Kapnos wraps around the restaurant’s massive open kitchen, creating the feeling of a great room with a pair of hickory-fired rotisserie grills at its center. Just beyond the main entrance, a 10-seat bar overlooks the two massive cookers, giving guests an up-close view of the chefs at work and the open flame. A 50-seat bar adjoins the dining room and is home to the restaurant’s extensive wine selection and Greek-influenced beverage program.
Isabella worked closely with his business partners, brothers George and Nick Pagonis, on the Kapnos menu. His chef de cuisine and general manager, respectively, are the sons of Greek immigrants and fluent speakers of their ancestral tongue. Kapnos means smoke in Greek, and Isabella infuses a rich smokiness in all the meats cooked in the rotisserie grills. Suckling pig, baby goat, lamb and chicken can all be ordered in 4 oz tasting portions. Whole animals can also be ordered in advance and served at the 10-seat chef’s table where Isabella and his team slice and serve the whole animal from a special carving station at the foot of the table.
The mezze menu – Greek and Mediterranean-influenced shareable plates – is divided into Spreads, Raw, Cold, Garden and Ocean sections, and includes dips, salads, seafood crudos, roasted and grilled vegetables and classic Mediterranean seafood dishes. A selection of Greek classics – think mousaka, spanakopita and souzoukakia – rotate as daily specials. In addition to Northern Greece, Isabella and his team draw culinary influence from Athens, the islands of Crete and Paros and the Peloponnesian peninsula.
At the bar, Kapnos continues to take notes from the Mediterranean. Its draft offerings include a trio of lemonade cocktails, including one made with grilled lemons, and three wines. The wine list includes 150 bottled and 25 by-the-glass offerings that draw heavily from Greece but also include selections from old and new world regions. The cocktail program will include a dozen libations utilizing head mixologist Taha Ismail’s house-made sodas and bitters as well as the flavors of Greece with regional ingredients and liqueurs. Select cocktails will be available in small jugs to be shared at the table. The full dinner menu will be available at the bar.
Inspired by the rustic mountainous regions of Greece, Isabella worked with Streetsense, a Bethesda-based integrated architecture and design firm, to develop the look and feel of Kapnos. The space is designed to emulate both the regional fare that is served and the Greek name of the restaurant, which means smoke. The 160-seat, 6,000-square foot space uses earthy tones and natural materials offset by a variety of eclectic lighting styles and vibrant drapes, cushions, and millwork panels to create an atmosphere reminiscent of gypsy caravans and mountain homes.
The bar conveys a rustic, outdoor quality with its ebony-stained distressed wood bar front, charred wood bar top, and live edge walnut slab communal bar tables. The dining area exudes a comfortable, lived-in quality, best captured in the 38-seat semi-private dining area that features deep velvet curtains, punched metal Moroccan lanterns, and a window view into the display kitchen. Adjacent to the display kitchen sits an immense butcher block chef’s table, made up of individual mesquite blocks. It was designed and handcrafted by the Streetsense team and serves as a highlight of the variety of dining options available. This 10-seat community style chef’s table features an integrated carving station and is illuminated by four wine bottle chandeliers. In addition to the chef’s table and private dining room, guests also have options to dine in a recessed dining area with reclaimed oak floors.
In the weeks following the opening of Kapnos, Isabella will debut a second concept under the same roof – G. A companion to Graffiato, Isabella’s Italian-inspired Chinatown restaurant, G will serve Italian sandwiches by day (some of which will utilize meats from Kapnos’s whole animal roasts), and offer a fixed-price four-course tasting menu by night.
Location: 2201 14th St. NW
Hours: Bar opens at 4pm daily.
A peek in the window: