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Jun 19, 2007 06:15 PM

Review: Cava (Rockville)

I was happily surprised by our meal tonight at Cava. Cava serves primarily mezze, small plates of Greek food to enjoy with ouzo or wine. Some might say Greek tapas, but Greeks are probably right to respond that that's the wrong way round, as tapas are really Spanish mezze.

While we reviewed the menu, WARM PITA with olive oil, olives, and a declicious tapenade.

Next, AVOGOLEMONO, a chicken, lemon and rice soup. My wife became especially fond of this soup at Sultan's Kitchen, in Boston, MA. While no version ever seems to reach the heights of Sultan's Kitchen, Cava's version was respectable, and would be especially good on a cool night.

Next, SHRIMP LOUKOUMADES. This was my least favorite dish of the evening. An interesting experiment that, while tasty, wasn't a home run. It was six large shrimp indivdually fried in Greek doughnut batter. The harissa aioli was excellent. I'd love it on a sandwich.

Next, MINI SOUVLAKI, three small pita sanwiches of beautifully fatty pork with a zesty tzatziki sauce, wrapped in foil. Very good.

Finally, GRILLED MEATBALLS, which were three juicy balls of charred ground beef seasoned with dill, garlic, and oregano. Excellent, especially with the leftover pita.

The eager bartender was thoughful to remind us that on Tuesdays at Cava all bottles of wine are half price, AND, she said, what you don't drink you can take home. We had part of a bottle of a Greek red called Boutari Grand Reserve, which we will finish tomorrow for dinner. I also had an excellent glass of ouzo, which was elegantly served. Hard to resist, when the back of the T-shirts of the servers says: "Got ouzo?"

I'll be back.

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  1. Do they actually have Cava? Do you know or anyone else? And if so is it reasonably priced? I just came back from Spain and loved how reasonably priced and good their cava was compared to prices for champagne and sparkling wine in the states. But Europe tends to have cheaper prices on that sort of thing :(

    2 Replies
    1. re: ktmoomau

      The menu lists one cava (Cristalino), which is available for $6 a glass, or $21 a bottle. On Tuesday nights, bottles are half-price, so I guess it would be $10.50 a bottle. That's about what you would pay for that bottle retail, so it seems reasonably priced to me.

      1. re: John Galt

        Wow a place called Cava only has one... that's really kind of disappointing with all the great cava out there.

    2. My brother raved about this place and it was just written up in the Washingtonian cheap eats. I have been meaning to try it. Most greek places do but do they have vegetarian options?

      2 Replies
      1. re: gooseterp

        As you might expect, there are a fair number of meatless options.

        1. re: John Galt

          I have not been to Cava but friends have been multiple times and just loved it. Can't wait to try it!

      2. When we went there I tried to order a glass of cava, and the bartenders had no clue what I was talking about. They first brought me their cava martini, which I guess is one of their specialty martinis, then a glass of sparkling water. Finally I just said a glass of champagne, and they brought me the cava. I guess they aren't aware of what cava really is. Other than that, we really enjoyed the food.

        3 Replies
        1. re: small fry

          My wife and I stopped in at Cava yesterday. It was our first time, and I will say up front that we both decided that we would be willing to come back.

          It is a medium sized space, fairly noisy but so what.

          We ordered:

          The Rocket Salad, baby arugula with feta, shaved kefalograviera cheese, and a lemon vinaigrette. It wasn't bad at all (I let her choose it since I'm not into arugula) but if anything had too much cheese.

          Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip - Roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, garlic, herbs & olive oil. It was served with a basket of hot pita pieces. Excellent, with a smokey flavor.

          Fried Kalamari - Olive oil crisped kalamari served with lemon wedges and a dipping sauce that I can't really say what it contained. It was very good however, and the kalamari was light, crisp and not at all chewy.

          Grilled Octopus - marinated in oil and lemon and grilled. This was my favorite dish, and since my wife will not eat octopus, I got to eat it all. I'll come back just to get this again.

          Grilled baby lamb chops - served with lemon and oregano with olive oil crisped fries. The lamb chops were great, but the sauce was soaking the fries and turned them into limp lumps of potato. Good flavor, but not at all appetizing in appearance or texture.

          We washed it down with a bottle of a 2006 Cchia Pinot Grigio (fair, a little to acidic, but at $27 not bad for Montgomery County.)

          My complaint is that this place bills itself as a wine bar as well as a mezze place. I don't know if it is possible to have a real wine bar in Montgomery County, but the wine list here is ordinary at best. The prices are good for MoCo, but aside from the fact that there are quite a few Greek wines, there was nothing that would have excited even the most casual of wine geeks (which I admit to being). Perfectly alright for the casual wine drinker, but please, a wine bar, not hardly. Having a lot of wines availabel by the glass (and admittedly most of the wines on the list were) does not make a wine bar. Well maybe for MoCo it does, but if I was serious about having a wine bar, I would have opened it somewhere that makes it possible to have exciting wine on a consistent basis. However, as a restaurant, it was fun and worth the cost. As I said, we will be back. I don't know that we'll make it a destination, but when we are up at that end of the county, it will get consideration.

          1. re: dinwiddie

            How noisy? Would a girl's night out, say on a Monday or Tuesday, be too noisy for conversation? This would be for a group of 10 to 15.

            1. re: sharonlouk

              How noisy? My husband and I were there this evening (Wednesday)between 6:30-7:30. At first the noise level was fine, but by the second half of our dinner we were having to shout at each other. Also, you should note that Mondays are $5.00 martini nights and Tuesdays are 1/2 price wine bottle nights. That's great, but will probably increase the crowds and noise level even more.