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Tom Sietsema Finds Kapnos Kouzina Appetizing

Plus, reviews of Kyirisan, El Sol, Stomping Ground, The Dabney, and more

Kapnos Kouzina
Kapnos Kouzina
Austin G./Yelp

Tom Sietsema tries Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda for his full review in the Washington Post. He awards the restaurant two and a half stars. Each restaurant under Mike Isabella's Kapnos umbrella has a different emphasis, and this one favors Greek homestyle cooking. Diners will still recognize familiar items like spreads and dolmas, but Sietsema warns them not to just fill-up on starters. He writes:

"Different from its kin, Kapnos Kouzina devotes a category to souvlaki, skewered grilled meat. Kebabs of ground duck are juicy and springy, offered on a smear of charred scallion puree amid a salad tarted up with sumac and sliced watermelon radishes; ground beef-and-lamb are more traditional, but no less appealing, bites of meat. Also specific to the Bethesda restaurant are pide, boat-shaped pizzas by way of Turkey that are tasty, but not better than another dip and some flatbread (a point an honest server made when we inquired about the savory pies)."

Besides these dishes, he recommends the fried chicken with harissa and honey over the rack of lamb and also really likes the mushroom moussaka. [WaPo]

The critic also dines at Kyirisan for his First Bite column in the Washington Post. Chef Tim Ma is mixing his Chinese ancestry with his French training, but Sietsema also uncovers some Burmese, Filipino, Korean, and American influences. The result is successful so far. He writes:

"Kyirisan’s selections fall under menu headings that share the source of their primary ingredients: 'In the Ground' (fried tofu with black pepper sauce), 'On the Ground' (beef heart tartare served with a mayonnaise spiked with the pungent Korean condiment gochujang) and 'Under the Water.' That last category nets fine halibut propped up on fingers of seared kohlrabi. Beneath the duo: a swab of hoisin sauce that gets its effervescence from Sprite, another idea adopted from a kitchen colleague." [WaPo]

Tim Carman goes to El Sol for his $20 Diner column in the Washington Post. He raves about every part of the tacos, particularly the tortillas. He writes:

"I’m tempted to call El Sol the best taqueria in Washington — by a long shot. But such a declaration diminishes the breadth of El Sol’s ambitions. Its kitchen prepares seviches, mussels, tortas, carnitas, pozole, huaraches, quesadillas and a mole rojo darkened, in part, with Negra Modelo beer. Even the plating matches the kitchen’s cooking: Every dish has its own art, a minimalist, white-plate canvas on which sauces are not allowed to spread willy-nilly to the very edges of the dinnerware, as if looking for escape routes." [WaPo]

Stefanie Gans files a review of Stomping Ground in Del Ray for Northern Virginia. What started as a coffee and biscuit shop has evolved into a full-fledged restaurant. She also finds the lack of bro culture (partially thanks to chef Nicole Jones) refreshing. Gans writes:

"The nighttime menu mostly diverges from the South, finding freedom in combining flavors and continents. Usually when a restaurant serves globally diverse cuisines, it’s a sign of trouble: scattered thinking with little depth behind each dish. At Stomping Ground, the fact that there is no through line is its gift, like ditching the guidebooks and discovering a tiny beer bar in the middle of Fernet- and wine-clogged Buenos Aires. It’s surprising and rewarding. True story, but anyway." [NoVa]

Todd Kliman reviews The Dabney for Washingtonian and finds some hits and a few misses. Although chef Jeremiah Langhorne prepares many of his dishes in an open hearth, the critic doesn’t think that the cooking process always improves the food. He writes:

"This sounds infinitely soul-warming. The reality is that the promise of deep, slow-coaxed flavors isn’t always met on the plate. When Langhorne gets it right, however, the result is a depth of the kind that fine dining—with its elaborate conceptualizations and austere plating—can miss. A saucy dish of 'tongue of fine beans,' an obscure Virginia variety, paired with roasted pheasant, doesn’t merely conjure the past—it brings that past alive. The chef performs a similar feat of conjuring with a quail, its lacquered skin so glossy it brings to mind a mahogany antique."

Kliman is hopefuly The Dabney changes its focus from showing off ingenuity to simply producing the most pleasurable cuisine. [Washingtonian]

Don Rockwell also dines at The Dabney and loves the lacquered quail perhaps even more than Kliman did. He suggests ordering it with a side of amber-roasted young potatoes and finishes the meal with devil’s food cake with sour cream ice cream and pumpernickel streusel. He concludes:

"My bartender was fabulous, and this meal at The Dabney solidifies the restaurant in my mind as one of the very greatest newcomers on the scene (I had some doubts after my first visit, but no longer). Well-worth the time and effort to get into Blagden Alley early, right at 5:30 when they open." [DR]

Rockwell also tries Grapeseed Bistro & Wine Bar and determines it’s "one of Bethesda’s great culinary treasures..." He also approves of the cooking at Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan and writes:

"This is an important opening, and I predict great things for Tail Up Goat – congratulations to all who are involved with this fine restaurant which doesn’t even blink when it comes to using fermentation, mild sweetness, and texture as integral parts of its cuisine." [DR]

Tyler Cowen goes to Bad Saint in Columbia Heights and thinks it's worth it to get there before 5:30 p.m. to get a table. He writes:

"Creative Filipino cooking at its best, and I don’t mean that as faint praise. I’ve had most of the menu, and none of it is worse than interesting, noting they are not afraid to serve you sour-tasting food."

His favorite dishes are the bronzino and clams with sausage and Sichuan chiles. He says it’s worth the wait. [TC]

He also tries Takumi in Falls Church and calls it "the best sushi place around, period." He says Chinese restaurant Yu Zhou Café in Gaithersburg is " a strange but also excellent place" and recommends the hot and sour wontons. [TC]

THE BLOGS: Scott Edelman parties at Pineapple and Pearls...Hungry Travelist looks forward to returning to Takoda...Cocktail Amateur samples drinks at Brabo

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