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Mike Isabella‘s ever expanding collection of restaurants now includes a second Greek eatery. Kapnos Taverna, a spinoff of Kapnos on 14th Street NW, opens today in Ballston with a focus on the seafood-heavy cuisine from the coastal regions and islands of Greece. The restaurant will serve only lunch until Feb. 3, when it expands to dinner service. (UPDATE: the restaurant will open for dinner on Feb. 2.)
Kapnos chef and partner George Pagonis, who recently appeared on Top Chef, will oversee the kitchen along with chef de cuisine Greg Basalia. Pagonis, whose parents are Greek immigrants, drew inspiration from visits to his family’s vacation home on the island of Paros in the central Aegean sea.
The lunch menu includes a range of gyros (falafel, spit-roasted lamb shoulder, grilled salmon) as well as mezze, ranging from swordfish kebabs to crispy harissa-spiced eggplant to different types of souvlaki. Like Kapnos, there’s an array of spreads like tzatziki, hummus, and taramosalata made with cauliflower and carp roe.
Dinner also features a wide selection of seafood, vegetable, and meat mezze in addition to a raw bar and “for the table” platters. Among the highlights from the ocean is a $125 tower stacked with oysters, shrimp, Maine lobster, king crab, live sea scallops, marinated clams, braised mussels, king salmon tartare, and smoked swordfish. It’s accompanied by Greek-inspired condiments like harissa hot sauce, tomato-ouzo cocktail, and lemon yogurt. (A smaller seafood platter goes for $75.) Other large splittable dishes include a whole lamb shoulder for $75 and a whole bronzino for $32.
The wine list includes 90 bottles, three-fourths of which are Greek (including one on draft). The other three taps will be dedicated to a rotating selection of local breweries beginning with 3 Stars, Port City, and Charlottesville, Va.-based Champion. Bartender Taha Ismail, who oversees the drink menus at Isabella’s other restaurants, has created a cocktail list with a Mediterranean flare. Housemade sodas and lemonades are also available.
The 165-seat lavender- and herb-filled restaurant includes seating overlooking the open kitchen and a second floor mezzanine. A 60-seat patio will open later with a fire pit.
Kapnos Taverna will have some new neighbors soon: Isabella plans to open a Mexican cantina called Pepita and a noodle bar and Japanese small plates restaurant called Yona with chef Jonah Kim next door. Meanwhile, another Kapnos—Kapnos Kouzina—is coming to Bethesda this summer.
Kapnos Taverna, 4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; (703) 243-4400; kapnostaverna.com
Photos courtesy Greg Powers