"I'm really excited about our seafood tower," Mike Isabella says. That's just one of the new menu items customers of Kapnos Taverna will get to try when Isabella's Ballston restaurant opens next Tuesday.
That tower, featuring shellfish like shrimp and oysters, as well as Greek garnishes like an ouzo-spiked cocktail sauce and a yogurt aoli, is one of the many raw bar items that will be available at the restaurant. Kapnos Taverna is both similar and different from Isabella's original Kapnos on U Street. Isabella's first restaurant was an ode to Modern Greek food, particularly whole animals roasted on a spit. His second restaurant is a collaboration with recent Top Chef contestant George Pagonis and chef de cuisine Greg Basalla.
"Kapnos is different than every other Greek restaurant in the country. When we decided we wanted to do more Greek restaurants, we didn't want to duplicate exactly what we were doing there," he said. "I wanted this one to be a little more classic, a little more neighborhood." That means an entirely new look from design firm Streetsense for the 165-seat, 5,700 square foot Kapnos Taverna, with touches of blues and whites, accents of terra cotta, live plants, marble tables and countertops and eventually, a fire pit. "I really wanted it to have a beachy feel; a little warm, a little more familiar," Isabella said.
Food at Kapnos Taverna will focus on dishes from the Cyclades, Peloponnese, Thessaloniki, and Ionian Islands in Greece (the menus are now online). The popular spreads from the original Kapnos remain, and there are still some roasted items.
There are 90 bottles of wine (the majority are from Greece), local D.C. beers and 15 cocktails from mixologist Taha Ismail.
Eventually joining Kapnos Taverna in Ballston will be Isabella's Mexican restaurant, Pepita, which has started construction, and his partnership with Jonah Kim, Yona, a Korean restaurant. Arlington will be a new clientele for the chef; he says the location had a good mix of residential and office development. "It had the density we were looking for, but it wasn't saturated with restaurants," he said.
The third Kapnos, Kapnos Kouzina, will eventually open in Bethesda. Anytime he opens a Kapnos, it will be a little different, Isabella says (Kouzina will focus on homestyle cooking).
"I don't think Greek food has the kind of notoriety that some [cuisines] have, and I don't think people are doing it," Isabella says. "We want to take things to different levels and show people there are a lot of regions, a lot of different kinds of food."
Kapnos will originally open for lunch, and then add dinner service Feb. 3. Brunch will begin sometime after that.
4000 Wilson Blvd.