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Cava Founders Open French Bistro With an Arabic Twist

Julii begins serving salmon nicoise and lamb tagine tonight in North Bethesda

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The salmon nicoise salad from Julii
Courtesy of Ted Xenohristos

Julii, a French Bistro from the founders of Cava Grill that’s influenced by the North African, Middle Eastern, and Greek shores of the Mediterranean Sea, opens tonight at the Pike and Rose development in North Bethesda. Julii doesn’t yet have a website, but the restaurant is offering limited reservations through an OpenTable portal.

Chef Sasha Felikson, formerly of Doi Moi on 14th Street NW, tells Eater that he and his staff have had about three weeks to get comfortable with the kitchen following construction delays. He says he’s aiming to present French flavors with a lighter touch, serving food “without all the butter and all the fat” while incorporating spices and flavors from countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Syria.

Co-owner Ted Xenohristos says that in a preview dinner for his immediate family, Felikson wowed diners with a crispy trout entree — served with urfa spice, meuniere sauce, and tomato preserves — and table-side ice cream frozen on the spot with a tank of a liquid nitrogen.

Felikson says one of his early favorites is a warm salmon nicoise salad. You can read the rest of the menu below:

Xenohristos and his partners, Ike Grigoropoulos and Dimitri Moshovitis, are the childhood friends and Montgomery County natives that started the booming Cava Grill fast-casual chain. Cava acquired national fast-casual chain Zoe’s Kitchen in August.

The name of the new restaurant comes from Forum Julii, an ancient Roman naval base in Southeastern France founded by Julius Caesar that used to serve as a meeting ground for European traders and spice merchants from across the Middle East and North Africa.

“It was a major trading post,” Xenohristos says. “Ships came in from all over the Mediterranean.”

That helps explain the labneh butter on the dinner rolls, the couscous salad that comes with the roasted duck, and the presence of lamb tagine and shakshuka on the menu.

Xenohristos tells Eater that a second component of the business, a coffee shop and bakery using beans from Grace Street Coffee in Georgetown, is a few weeks away from opening.

For now, Julii is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. seven nights a week, but the owners could decide to extend hours depending on demand from customers.

Lamb tagine from Julii
Courtesy of Ted Xenohristos
Foie gras torchon at Julii
Courtesy of Ted Xenohristos