Cava Mezze - Capitol Hill

Greek
$$$$ ($14 and under)
Cava Mezze - Capitol Hill photo
Richard A. Lipski/For The Post
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Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Cava's Barrack's Row location for a May 2009 First Bite.

We're disappointed when we catch sight of the first dish to come our way at the new Cava on Capitol Hill. Whereas the original Greek restaurant in Rockville ignites its breaded, brandy-splashed cheese at the table, its sibling dispenses with the light show.

Co-owner Dimitri Moshovitis blames the ceiling for the lack of fireworks: "Leather panels," he explains.

The other differences between the two dining rooms, both noisy, are mostly pleasant ones. The new place, with 120 seats, is double the size of Cava in the suburbs. And a bigger bar in the District translates to a longer list of drink options, including six twists on the mojito and such booze-free thirst-quenchers as lemonade spiked with fresh ginger. City diners also have an hour longer to graze on the restaurant's signature mezze, or small plates; Cava on the Hill stays open till 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

The kitchen on the Hill, which began lunch service Monday, serves slightly smaller amounts of food. "Twice the flavor, half the portion!" spins Moshovitis, who says the strategy allows his customers to sample more of the menu, which includes ouzo-flavored mussels, sweetly spiced braised chicken, lamb chops and "disco fries" (hand-cut fries topped with grated cheese and veal ragout). Prices, by the way, are mostly comparable, but some of the big-ticket items are cheaper here.

The spanakopitas, served three to a plate, make up for that ordinary cheese appetizer. Their light phyllo covers break open to reveal a luscious core of fresh spinach, dill and what Moshovitis calls a key to success: "lots of leeks." Zucchini fritters, crisp outside and creamy within, are nearly the equal of those sold at Zaytinya in Penn Quarter.

Art for the moody, warm-in-wood restaurant comes by way of the staff and friends and relatives, whose black-and-white childhood photos enliven the rear walls. That little kid in his dad's arms in the port in Athens is the now-30-year-old Moshovitis.

Mezze, $4.95-$15.95.

(May 13, 2009)