Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cava

Cava is Greek mezze/wine bar/martini lounge that brings a little more upscale eating experience to Barracks Row.  Replacing the former Marty’s restaurant, prepare to indulge in unique Greek-inspired dishes served mezze style—in small plates, but with portions large enough to share. Cava’s mezze-style dining inspires conversation and laughter at the table. The dim candle-lighting and black and white family photos adorning Cava’s charming brick interior walls creates a dark and mysterious atmosphere that appears far from casual to the local patrons of Barracks Row. Closest Metro is Eastern Market.

May 2009: Having been open for only a few weeks, the staff is still new and confused on table numbers and how to assign the outdoor area. We had hoped to sit upstairs but we were told it was not available, so we sat at one of the high tables. Then another party came in after us and asked to sit upstairs as well and were told it would not open up for another hour or so. The bar seemed large, but to be used if only waiting for a table as opposed to be the “local bar” to hang out at after work. The food was a little overpriced compared to other mezze restaurants in the district, but the food was pretty tasty and it came out fast. The chicken and calamari were cooked very well. Our server recommended a decent glass of Greek white wine that I enjoyed. Overall, I liked my meal and the experience was pretty good. I would come back for dinner plans, but not for a casual meal.

October 2009: After having been open a couple months, the crew at Cava seem to have their flow down much better. Service was super great and fast. Maybe even a little too fast. But our food was very tasty and fresh. We were able to check out the roof top bar after dinner and although small, it was nice to chill for a bit on an oddly warm October evening.

June 2011: It had been a couple years since we last visited Cava, but our recent trip to Greece encouraged us to try this local Greek Mezze restaurant again. Since we are more familiar with Greek cuisine, we picked better dishes and boy, we were not disappointed. The portions of each seemed larger, and quality of ingredients and preparations were much higher than we we remembered. I am not sure if the chef revamped the kitchen since we last dined here, but we definitely could tell a difference (much improved!). The taramosalata was tangy, but not as whipped and soft as we had in Greece. I suspect the fish roe they used is perhaps canned and not as fresh as one would get in the Islands. The saganaki was a delight; two portions of fried cheese flambéed table side - makes you want to yell "opa!". Keith had ordered the lamb chops before, but this time the chops were much bigger portioned and well seasoned. The seafood dishes we ordered were also very fresh and cooked perfectly - very reminiscent of Mediterranean cuisine. After our meal, instead of dessert, we enjoyed one of the specialty cocktails which were very refreshing on this muggy summer night in DC. Overall Chef Moshovitis provides excellent, authentic, Greek Mezze that should not be overlooked. Efharisto!

March 2012: We returned to Cava Mezze in Capitol Hill to satisfy Keith’s gyro craving. After a recent episode of the Food Network’s “Heat Seakers” coupled with the early Spring-like weather, the place seemed a bit more packed than usual with the entire outside patio area full. We sat inside the dark dining room and were greeted by our server who immediately notified us of the “Heat Seakers” specials they were featuring: the Crazy Feta, a spicier version of their traditional cheese spread and the Crazy Gyros, loaded with green habenero harissa spread. We ordered a drink first and took time to look over the new menu. For some reason the Sangria called out to me and I am glad I ordered a glass as it was delicious and refreshing! If it weren’t a school night, I would have drank more. Keith opted for a beer and munched on the olives and pita bread while I still studied the menu. More casual fare were highlighted than last time I remember, including an array of gyro and slider mezze. Keith decided to skip the spicy version and just ordered the regular Mini Gyros Pita platter that came with three classic style gyros filled with meat, veggies, and French fries. We also opted for the spanakopita, Cava mac & cheese, sautéed calamari, and chicken souvlaki. The mac & cheese came out first and was very different than I expected. The fat wide ribbon noodles were tossed with arugula and Greek cheeses and tasted similar to spanakopita. Wish we would have known, then we would not have ordered them separately. Next came the calamari – nice chunks of the seafood were lightly sautéed in the tomato sauce and the orzo was cooked just right. This dish had the most authentic Greek flavor that I remember from our trip there last year. The chicken souvlaki was cooked well in the Greek herbs and lemon, but I wish the chunks of meat were a tad smaller as they were difficult to get of the skewer and some pieces seemed a bit more borderline pink in the middle as others. Regardless, I thought the chicken accompanied the mac & cheese dish well, providing a satisfying meal. Keith, however, did not care for the gyros. He found them to be his least favorite thing of all the mezze he’s tried at Cava. The onions were too pickled and sweet, the meat was ok, and the sandwich overall was lacking acid. It would be better perhaps if they weren’t only offered as mini portions. Cava still hits the spot when it comes to Greek food and the prime location along Barracks Row is super convenient.

Total Rating: 3.85
Food: 4, Price: 3, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Taramosalata
whipped Salmon roe dip with citrus and capers

Saganaki
Fried Kefalograviera cheese

Baby Octopus
grilled to perfection

Scallops with Risotto
jumbo scallops, pan seared with cremini mushroom risotto

Htipiti
Roasted Red Pepper, Dodonis Feta, Thyme

Orzo
Orzo, Kefalograviera, Baked

Zuchinni Fritters
Zucchini, Feta, Herbs, Crisped in EVOO

Grilled Scallops
Jumbo Scallops, Lemon Juice, Grilled

Eggplant Dip
Roasted baby eggplant with garlic and herbs,
extra virgin olive oil, served with toasted pita bread

Spanakopita
Spinach, dodonis feta, phyllo

Chicken Souvlaki
Grilled chicken with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and herbs

Calamari
Crisped with extra virgin olive oil, served with spicy dip

Cava Mac & Cheese
Papardelle pasta, Greek cheeses, arugula

Sautéed Calamari
San Marzano tomatoes, capers, Gavala, orzo

Plus Keith ate:

Lamb Chops
Domestic Lamb Chops, EVOO, Crisped Potatoes

Lamb Kapama
Braised lamb shoulder, haloumi, greek yogurt

Mini Gyros Platter
Fries, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions

Cava Mezze Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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