Food

Take a Look Inside Mike Isabella’s New Restaurant: Kapnos Kouzina

Flatbread with crab and chilies at Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda. Photograph by Andrew Propp

Restaurateur Mike Isabella continues to build his empire with an inaugural Maryland venture: Kapnos Kouzina, now open in Bethesda. The 160-seat Greek restaurant is a spinoff of the flagship Kapnos on 14th Street and Ballston’s Kapnos Taverna, which all follow Mediterranean themes, but differ in menu and design.

The 160-seat space was designed with gardens in mind, and includes an outdoor patio.
The 160-seat space was designed with gardens in mind, and includes an outdoor patio.

Kapnos Kouzina is meant to be the “home-style” sibling, with rustic dishes from chef George Pagonis and a garden-like decor. In addition to dips and spreads with freshly-baked flatbread—a Kapnos constant—diners can opt for a variety of hot and cold mezze (small plates), grilled souvlaki-style meats such as ground duck with pistachios, and pyde—think Mediterranean pizzas—topped with combinations like crab, mushrooms, and arugula.

Shareable family-style platters include Greek fried chicken--served half or whole--with spiced honey.
Shareable family-style platters include Greek fried chicken–served half or whole–with spiced honey.

In keeping with the homey theme, diners can opt for larger, family-style dishes for sharing, such as rosemary-scented rack of lamb, or fried chicken with harissa-spiced honey—available by the half or whole. Those looking for a less involved experience can opt for a weekday express lunch ($15 per person), with a choice of gyro sandwich, side, and house-made soda.

Tables can split a variety of small plates, such as hot and cold mezze or grilled souvlaki, as well as larger platters.
Tables can split a variety of small plates, such as hot and cold mezze or grilled souvlaki, as well as larger platters.

Barman Taha Ismail is behind the beverage program for all Isabella restaurants, and assembled a beer and wine list for Kouzina that focuses on Israel, Greece, and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as local options for the bottled and canned brews, ciders, and meads (no drafts). Drinkers will also find a variety of cocktails ($11 to $12), which incorporate popular Mediterranean spirits and liqueurs like Greek mastiha, sherry, and Metaxa brandy.

Drinks also draw from the Mediterranean, using ingredients like sherry and Greek brandy.
Drinks also draw from the Mediterranean, using ingredients like sherry and Greek brandy.

Initially the restaurant will open for lunch-only, and begin dinner service on Friday, March 11, followed by brunch that weekend. Though different menus will be served, the kitchen will be open continuously throughout the day and into the evening. Also look for second Kapnos Kouzina, coming to the Mosaic District this year.

A 24-seat bar is the place to sip Israeli wines or Greek beer.
A 24-seat bar is the place to sip Israeli wines or Greek beer.

Kapnos Kouzina. 4900 Hampden Ln., Bethesda; 301-986-8500. Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 10 pm; Friday 11:30 am to 11 pm; Saturday 11 am to 11 pm; Sunday 11 am to 10 pm. The bar remains open one hour after the kitchen closes. 

Look to the "souvlaki" section of the menu for grilled meats, such as this bifteki (ground beef) with tabouleh.
Look to the “souvlaki” section of the menu for grilled meats, such as this bifteki (ground beef) with tabouleh.
Seafood mezze include options like this spiced salmon kabob with cauliflower puree.
Seafood mezze include options like this spiced salmon kabob with cauliflower puree.
The kitchen will serve tables continuously, lunch through dinner.
The kitchen will serve tables continuously, lunch through dinner.
Vegetarians can do well here, with a large selection of garden mezze, and family-style options like eggplant moussaka.
Vegetarians can do well here, with a large selection of garden mezze, and family-style options like eggplant moussaka.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.