Kapnos Kouzina Opens Today in Bethesda
Kapnos Kouzina, 4900 Hampden Lane, Bethesda, opens today for lunch. Dinner service will be added on Friday and brunch starts on Saturday.
This is Mike Isabella’s first foray into Maryland. Kapnos Kouzina joins the original northern Greek Kapnos on 14th Street NW in D.C. and the coastal Greek Kapnos Taverna in Ballston. The newest 5,200 square-foot eatery is in Bethesda Row where Vapiano formerly was located.
“We’re excited to join the Bethesda community and bring a home-style version of our Greek restaurant to this casual neighborhood setting,” said Isabella in a press release. “While there are similarities between Kapnos Kouzina and its sister restaurants, the vibe here is a little more laid-back and the food more reminiscent of what you would eat for Sunday dinner in a Greek home.”
The restaurant’s interior was designed by Natalie Park Design and Eimer Design. The 160-seat restaurant includes a 12-seat communal table, a 24-seat oak butcher block bar with seating on three sides and an open kitchen with a white marble backdrop and seating for 15 along the front. There will be a patio for outdoor seating in warmer weather.
The dining area has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the corner space with honey oak floors and tables and white-washed wood surfaces with olive green accents including the chairs and bar stools. The back wall has two archways filled with artificial foliage while the fourth wall has shelves filled with live, potted succulents that are also on the bar, window sills and between the booths in the dining room.
Drawing inspiration from regional cooking traditionally found on the Greek family table, executive chef/partner George Pagonis turned to his own experience growing up in a big Greek family and working at his father’s Four Seasons Diner, which had been located on Van Dorn Street where the TD Bank is currently. He has built a menu of Greek classics with a focus on rustic small plates and sharable platters for two to four guests. Dishes span from coastal Aegean influence to inland flavors, all reflecting regional traditions of Greek home cooking.
The menu includes Greek spreads like tzatziki, hummus and melitzanosalata served with flatbread priced from $3-$23; cold mezze like a Greek Caesar salad, tuna tartare or dolmades priced from $8-$15; garden mezze like spanakopita, falafel and cheese saganaki priced from $10-$14; and ocean mezze including swordfish kebab with fava, roasted tomato, romaine, caper and dill or charred octopus served over beluga lentils, slow-roasted tomato and heirloom carrots priced from $15-$16.There are also three kinds of flatbreads including crab with butternut squash, wild mushrooms, sweet potato, arugula and manour priced from $13-$15 and five souvlakis, such as chicken with tomato-eggplant salsa and bifteki with ground beef, lamb, curry lentils and tabbouleh ranging from $14-$34.
The “For the Table” section of the menu includes the dishes meant to be shared such as rack of lamb with crispy baby potatoes, rosemary and tzatziki for $52; lamb shank kapama with spiced tomatoes, orzo and mizithra for $34; a fried half or whole chicken with burnt honey mustard harissa for $23 and $39 respectively; a whole branzino with clams, mussels and tomato escabeche for $48; and mushroom moussaka with roasted eggplant, tomatoand béchamel fo $32. An express lunch is available weekdays for $15, featuring gyros with a choice of side and a selection of house-made sodas.
The restaurant’s bar program includes a large wine list with new and old world wines, particularly Greece, Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean priced from $9-$14 by the glass and $30-$250 by the bottle. Beer comes only in bottles and cans priced from $6-$8 and features local and West Coast brews, as well as those from Greece.
Signature cocktails priced at $12 include the Hollywood with Old Forester bourbon, Dolin sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Luxardo cherry and Angostura bitters; and the Make It Happen with Vida mezcal, pineapple juice, lime juice, Kummel, Hellfire bitters and egg white. Classic cocktails priced at $11 include a Sazerac with George Dickel rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, sugar and a absinthe rinse; and the Metaxa Brandy Crusta with Metaxa brandy, Luxardo maraschino and Cointreau and lemon. Greek and kosher coffee and espresso drinks, as well as house-made sodas like five-spice ginger beer and pineapple-lemongrass, round out the beverage offerings.
Kapnos Kouzina is open from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.