Balos Brings Greek Island Vibes to Dupont Circle

Crowd-pleasing grilled whole fish and mezze from a veteran restaurant industry trio.

Zucchini and eggplant "chips" are a signature appetizer at Balos. Photograph courtesy of Balos.

Balos, 1900 N St., NW. Open daily for dinner. 

A trio of restaurateurs with Greek roots have opened a high-end, Crete-inspired dining room near Dupont Circle. Balos, with a wide-ranging menu of whole grilled fish and mezze, plus a sashimi bar, debuted Monday night for dinner. 

To open Balos, co-owners Stefanos Vouvoudakis and Tom Tsiplakos, who run For Five Coffee Roasters, teamed up with Joe Ragonese, a veteran New York restaurateur who directed operations at Kyma, the clubby Manhattan Greek restaurants meant to evoke luxury destinations in the Aegean Sea. 

Ragonese is hoping to capture that same transportive quality with his first DC venture. Balos, after all, is named after a much-photographed turquoise lagoon in western Crete. 

“When you step into Balos, you’re actually leaving DC, and coming to a Greek island,” Ragonese says. “You feel that aura.”

To make the sleek dining room in a glassy new building feel more like it belongs on a rustic Greek isle, Ragonese shipped five containers full of decorative stones, ceramics, wood furniture, and light fixtures from Greece.

The furniture and most of the decor at Balos was imported from Greece. Photograph courtesy of Balos.

Ragonese wants the handsome space to serve as a “one-stop shop” for office workers and neighborhood residents, where they can get drinks and dinner and not feel they have to bounce around to multiple bars and eateries to have a full evening out. 

“We have a bar that’s over 20 feet long, and we put a lounge behind that,” Ragonese says. “I want you to be able to come eat and then stay.”

Food-wise, Balos leans on shareable Greek classics, some of which have been tweaked for American tastes. Chef Jean-Charles Métayer, who spent decades at Athens restaurants, grills a rotating selection of four whole fish, deboned and topped with lemon, herbs, and capers in a preparation that has long been a staple at Kyma. Classic Mediterranean grilled meats, oversized tiger prawns, and a slow-braised lamb shank youvetsi are some of the heftiest (and priciest) menu items.

Along with a house special appetizer—wafer-thin slices of lightly breaded eggplant and zucchini with tzatziki for dipping—there are taverna staples like grilled octopus, Greek salad, avgolemono soup, and spanakopita, which is based on Ragonese’s mother’s recipe.

Ragonese says he appreciated that chef Métayer, who’s schooled in Greek cooking, met with his mother to collect family recipes and compare notes. “A lot of chefs wouldn’t do that,” Ragonese says. “Which is a lot of why we really fell in love with Jean.”

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor