La Fia Market Bistro

I ran my second marathon on Sunday May 8th in Wilmington, DE.  Part of the reason I chose this particular race was because of my schedule.  The other reason was so we could eat at a great restaurant the night before!

Bryan Sikora was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2014 for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic for his work at La Fia and he is quickly taking over the nascent downtown Wilmington dining scene, having recently opened Merchant Bar and Market Street Bread & Bagel. We had previously gone to La Fia in November 2014 and had been looking for an opportunity to return. The marathon seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We ate with my grandparents and parents but I am only going to focus on what Marnay and I ate. The two of us made a meal out of two small plates and one large plate. If you go to La Fia, I recommend getting this amount of food as it was good for two people. The laid back and gracious servers will not pressure you to order a certain amount of food, either.

The server asked if we wanted the small plates first or with everyone’s entrees.  We asked them to come first.  I’m just impressed that he even asked, instead of the dishes coming from the kitchen “as they’re ready.”  We started out with the lightly seared smoked salmon with shaved turnips in a sweet, acidic sauce and a vegetable puree.  The dish also came with “horseradish crackers.”  We had never had such thick pieces of smoked salmon.  It looked a lot like a play on sliced rare tuna.

Along with the salmon, we ordered the grilled smoked merguez with chickpeas, roasted cherry tomatoes, and greek yogurt.  The best part of this dish was the THICK housemade greek yogurt mixed with the slight heat of the merguez and the chickpeas.  The merguez was good, although a little crumbly.

We’re always on the lookout for restaurants that serve gruner veltliner by the glass, and La Fia had one.  Marnay enjoyed a glass while I abstained, since of course, I was running 26 miles in the morning.

The entrée that we shared was grilled hanger steak with sautéed littleneck clams, pancetta, a crispy potato cake, broccoli rabe and a red wine nage. Nage is a type of seafood stock. The hanger steak, one of the most flavorful cuts of meat, was cooked to a perfect medium and had its characteristic chew. The grill imparted just the right amount of char and the nage gave the dish a rich, umami flavor. While the clams were one of the better parts of the dish, the potato cake tasted extraneous.

I ended up having a very enjoyable marathon experience and I think that our meal at La Fia played a role!  This is definitely a restaurant we would go back to.

Best Bite
Marnay: hanger steak
Paul: smoked salmon

Address
La Fia Market Bistro: 421 N. Market Street Wilmington, DE 19801

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Kapnos Kouzina

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.

Best Bite
Paul: Marousalata
Marnay: Hummus

Address
Kapnos Kouzina: 4900 Hampden Ln, Bethesda, MD 20814
Closest Metro: Bethesda