Tuesday, June 09, 2015

To the 'burbs.

Kapnos Taverna has been on Adam and my list for awhile now -- it opened around four months ago -- because we've liked Kapnos for dinner and brunch (a general lack of respect for reservation times and a few bad dishes aside), and this more seafood-focused effort sounded right up our alley.  So when Jo declared that she likes Greek and that the menu looked vegan-friendly enough to give her some options, we trekked out there in a rainstorm last night.  (We got pretty soaked on the dash around the corner from our parking spot to the front door.  Luckily, we are not witches.)

Our waiter was very nice, but service was a bit inattentive.  This made sense at the beginning of the meal, when the restaurant was pretty full and we were preemptively and apologetically informed that there were only two servers on the floor that night, but it became frustrating when the room emptied out and our waiter still didn't come back to ask after our empty drink glasses.  (Jo finally flagged him down a table away and basically shouted her second wine order at him; he didn't follow up to ask whether Adam or I wanted another cocktail.  By the time we ordered a second round, they didn't arrive until after all the food.)  He didn't know offhand which dishes were vegan/could be made vegan, but he did promptly check and bring back a list.  (Also, we got a kick out of speculating whether the symbol tattoo on his inner forearm was for the Deathly Hallows, which he confirmed when I asked.)

Of the spreads, we ordered the favosalata (yellow lentils, scallions, black garlic - $7 and vegan), taramasalata (carp roe, caviar, cauliflower - $11), and melitzanosalata (smoky eggplant, roasted peppers, walnuts, feta - $8).  The eggplant was excellent and our clear favorite -- good smokiness, nicely contrasting crunch and creaminess.  I liked the taramasalata more than Adam did; although it's definitely inferior to Nostos's lighter, whipped version, I wasn't as bothered as he by its greater fishiness or runniness.  (I couldn't tell what the cauliflower was doing, and in fact forgot it was a listed ingredient until I went back to look at the menu for this post.  I did like the sprinkling of chives on the side, which cut the richness a bit.)  No one really loved the lentils, although they were fine.  The drizzle of black garlic (syrup?) was a bit oddly sweet, while the lentils themselves were bland (they could have use a bit of salt, I think).  A little gremolata-ish dollop in the center was surprisingly spicy and would have been better if we'd figured out immediately to spread it around instead of eating our way to it from the outside of the dish.  When the bill arrived, we appreciated that rather than charging for the crudite we had ordered in addition to the gratis flatbread that comes with the dips, we got two flatbreads and one plate of sliced tomato and cucumber for free.  The drizzle of olive oil on top was unnecessary and weird given that we wanted the vegis for dipping; I'd have asked them to leave it off if I'd internalized its presence from my menu perusal.  (Note: we were asked whether we wanted to do the three-spread samplers for $21 and declined.  This seems like a terrible deal; even having ordered the most expensive spread on the menu, we would have saved $5 and gotten what appeared (from our view of another table's order) to be about half the amount.)

The main lobster flatbread (lemon yogurt, caper, dill - $17) was very tasty, but exactly what you'd expect from the description.  The lobster itself was nicely tender, and the portion was large (although it would have been easier to eat if the half-a-square triangles had been halved again).  The most disappointing dish of the meal was the taylor bay scallops (apple, grapefruit - $16).  Five little shells each held a pretty mound of cubed scallop, apple, grapefruit, julienned radish, and dill, topped with a slivered disk of green chile (I'd guess serrano).  Other than the chile, I could only identify the components visually or from the menu description.  The overall impression was of moist, cool blandness followed by a punch of flavorless heat.  Badly in need of salt, the later bites were better once we requested some.

My first thought on reading the description of the crispy eggplant (spicy honey, orange pith puree - $9) is that pith puree sounds disgusting.  Our server assured me that it was very citrusy but not overly bitter, and I decided to risk it because it sounded interesting.  I loved the orange and honey combination -- I didn't get spice, but it did have a slightly burned-in-a-good way flavor that reminded me of Gypsy Soul's excellent carrots.  My complaint about the dish was about the texture of the eggplant itself. Although the outside was nicely crisp, the insides of the half-inch-thick slices were just unappealingly mushy.  Better were the smoky roasted oysters (ras el hanout, pastirma - $10); the four oysters tasted more raw than I'd expected from the "roasted" description, but they were delicious.  (However, after the fact I am very annoyed with a potential service blunder here: I'd asked the waiter what "pastirma" was, and he said a spice blend, which I found kind of funny at the time given that the dish also listed ras el hanout, but I took him at his word rather than following up.  Google suggests that it's actually a cured meat, which means that (1) as pescatarians, we inadvertently ate meat, and (2) it wasn't even good enough that we realized we were eating meat.  Maybe they just use the spices that would normally go with the meat -- the way that you can find pastrami-spiced non-meat things, which would explain why we didn't see/taste anything meaty.  And now that I write this, I assume that pastirma and pastrami have to be etymologically related.)

Jo's other vegan selections were the roasted beets (walnut, orange coriander dressing - $8) and horta (kale, chard, chickpeas, baby tomatoes - $9).  She loved (and I liked) the beets, particularly the dressing.  (I found the beets over-roasted into softness.)  The horta was odd, its broth so salty that Jo worried from the smell alone that it couldn't be vegan, although she was assured that it was.  It was basically a mound of wilted greens, chickpeas, and grape tomatoes (cooked to the point of softness but not yet popped) in a briny puddle.  It made me long for Jaleo's hearty spinach and chickpea stew.

Excellent cocktails.  I started happily with the papa-bear (bourbon, cardamaro, cinnamon raisins infused sweet vermouth, pimento bitters, alleppo) -- a bit sweet, the cinnamon strong, kind of a winter-breakfast-in-a-glass thing going on.  Adam went first with the hannibal (mezcal, cointreau, lime, ginger, harissa), which was nicely smoky while remaining light.  I liked the lucky charms (flor de cana 4yr rum, lime, allspice, mint, angostura bitters) -- heavy on the spices flavor, to the exclusion of really picking up on the lime and mint -- but preferred the shepherd (beefeater gin, mountain tea, grilled lemon juice, oregano).  (Grilled lemon has featured in Kapnos: original flavor cocktails that I've liked.)

Dinner was good, but didn't reach the same heights as Kapnos (or Zaytinya), and there were nits to pick with several dishes.  I want Kapnos Taverna to be better than it currently is.  If we're going to go to the suburbs for Greek again, my vote goes to Nostos.


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