I am currently training for a marathon—the second of my life and my second of the year. On Saturday, I ran 19 miles from our home in South Silver Spring west to Bethesda and then north to the White Flint area. The next night, on a whim, we went to one of the restaurants that I ran past, Kapnos Kouzina.
Kapnos Kouzina opened about a month ago and is the second Kapnos spin-off from Mike Isabella. The original is in the U Street corridor and the second is in Arlington. When we arrived, we headed to the huge wrap-around bar. We made sure to sit on the side facing the open kitchen.
Our first impression was this that is a beautiful, modern restaurant. By the time we left, we had completely forgotten that we were in Bethesda. While we looked over the food menu, I ordered a Oaxaca Old Fashioned (tequila, el silencio mezcal, house bitters, agave) and Marnay got the Bubbles Make Me Clap (house gin blend, hibiscus, lemon, cava). My drink was started by the novice bar assistant who was having some difficulty with other orders, which made me a little nervous. However, the head bartender tasted the drink and then put the finishing touches on it. The smoky, savory mezcal really made the drink. I liked it so much that I ordered a second before the night was through. We both agreed that Marnay’s drink was well-made, but it was a little sweet for her taste.
The head bartender was one of the more knowledgeable bartenders that I have talked to in Montgomery County. A good sign for the county’s dining scene.
Fortified by our drinks, it was time to order some food. We ordered the hummus, which came with a folded over piece of house made flatbread and the Aleppo king salmon kebab with cauliflower puree and shaved brussels sprouts.
We were both a little starstruck when we looked into the kitchen and saw that George Pagonis, of Top Chef fame, was at the helm that night. He rotates between the three Kapnos restaurants so we felt fortunate that we were there on one of his nights in Bethesda.
The hummus was very flavorful and went well with the fresh, warm flatbread. I have found that hummus is almost always served too cold. This hummus was the perfect temperature, slightly colder than room temperature. The salmon kebabs were good but could have used a little more salt. Out of the two dishes, the hummus was the best and we would order it again in a heartbeat.
Still hungry, we ordered the tuna tartare with harissa, grilled avocado and taro chips for scooping as well as the marousalata, a salad of mixed baby greens, apple, crushed sesame crackers and tahini dressing. We were thirsty as well. I ordered the aforementioned second Oaxaca Old Fashioned. Marnay got a glass of “Atlantis white” assyrtico. Kapnos, being a Greek restaurant, has a fantastic selection of Greek wines. Marnay had never tried assyrtico before and now it is one of her favorites.
I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious the marousalata was, particularly the sweet crunchiness that the sesame crackers provided. It was my best bite of the meal.
“Pleasantly surprised” sums up our visit to Kapnos Kouzina. It is well worth a trip on the J2 from Silver Spring, and one day, the Purple Line.
Kapnos Kouzina: 4900 Hampden Ln, Bethesda, MD 20814
Closest Metro: Bethesda