Three of my dearest pals took me out last night for a birthday celebration. It's not every day I get to go out with the ladies, and so, despite the chill and pending rain, I put on a fun skirt, sleeveless top and these bad boys which most definitely needed to be christened. Aren't they fab?!
Y'all have probably figured out that I groove on great shoes. There's a reason my mom has long called me Imelda Marcos.
Anyway, my pals picked me up and off we headed to Mike Isabella's Kapnos Taverna. The one in Virginia. The entire conversation about leaving DC for Virginia was priceless.
"I'm sorry. We are going to Virginia. It's not that far. Then we're coming back! I swear this restaurant is supposed to be awesome, even better than its DC counterpart."
There is definitely a sense of competition and hierarchy in the DC-VA-MD area. Some want the "real" city experience and so live in the District despite way too many shitty schools, shitty infrastructure (like the Metro and roads) and taxation without representation. Others long ago swore off DC's awful traffic and shitty schools for lower tax rates, better publics and larger living spaces.
This all plays out in two main ways, as far as I observe:
1. People make judgments about others based on their license plates. For example, Tom and I once heard a DC driver yell, with wild outrage, at a Marylander, "You Maryland driver!" as if that were both the worst insult ever and encapsulated everything that was of offense.
2. DC people are very skeptical about leaving the District: Bethesda is fine, but beyond that, it might take some convincing unless you're going "on an adventure," to some predetermined destination.
In any case, we made it. Kapnos Virginia focuses on the culinary traditions of southern Greece (seafood!) while the DC location emphasizes the northern (think meats on a spit). Everything sounded divine, and I dare say our charming waiter was impressed at the number of dishes we ladies put away: a half-dozen West coast oysters; lobster flatbread; charred octopus; King salmon tartar; a three-spread sampler with flatbread; a bowl of horta (fabulous greens cooked in a traditional Greek manner); beet salad; a shrimp entree; the Chilean sea bass special; saganaki; and two desserts.
The dips were truly wonderful: I wondered how taramasalata (traditionally made with white bread, caviar and roe) made with cauliflower would taste. I'm a hardcore tarama fan so was vaguely skeptical, but Kapnos' rendition was absolutely wonderful. It still had the pungent, salty kick of the traditional version, though was missing the odd pink hue (which I happen to love). Bygones.
I order saganaki at every opportunity. I mean, who doesn't want a slab of salty cheese flamed in liquor? Mamma mia. Kapnos took its version to a higher level with a glaze of spicy-pepper-honey and lemon. This was close-your-eyes-and-gasp sublime.
One thing was better than another though I thought the least spectacular were the tartar and flatbread. The tartar lacked enough textural variation for my taste, as the purple potatoes and diced cucs had almost exactly the same mouthfeel as the salmon. The quality was great, but I wished for a bit more excitement, and the mustard could have been more pronounced.
Lobster is something best served on its own, in my opinion. Steamed with lemon butter or on a great, white, lightly toasted roll with lemon butter. That which topped the flatbread was perfectly cooked but was a bit lost in the melange of peppers, radishes, herbs, crunchy bread and so forth.
The service was great, the atmosphere was energetic and casual in a good way, and I loved the white wine I ordered which paired beautifully with every single dish. It was a 2013 assyrtiko/athiri/aidani blend from Santorini. Assyrtiko is a white grape indigenous to Santorini and has such a refreshing freshness about it. This particular wine was made by Hatzidakis, so look for a bottle at your local wine store next time you're shopping. Great for summer!
After stuffing our faces and laughing for nearly four hours, we headed back to the "safety" of the District. It was totally worth leaving, and in fact, I'd do it again soon!