Thursday, February 25, 2010

BIRTHDAY-NESS: Dinner at Komi

If you know me, you know how very much I love birthdays.  Not only do I love my own birthday, but I love the chance to shower my favorite people with surprises and happy memories.  Sooo, this past week, it was my own birthday ... and with any special occasion, my celebrations revolved around food. 

For several years, I have been dying to try out Komi -- Komi is housed in a rowhouse just northeast of Dupont Circle (and basically next to the newly revamped Sushi Taro).  Komi is known for its fresh flavors, creativity, from chef Johnny Monis.  For me, it is very difficult to "categorize" the type of food that you will enjoy at Komi -- a whirlwind of 20-some dishes appear before you, in growing size as the meal goes on -- each dish seems to be somehow tied to the next, but exactly what the common thread is is a bit intangible.  (On a random analogy, it reminds me of watching a fashion show where the collection clearly comes from the same designer, but what exactly strings each design to the next is hard to define.). 

The restaurant is in a word, intimate.  But not overbearingly so and not so much so that you are constantly eavesdropping into the conversation next to you.  I actually loved the table we were seated at -- we were right next to the kitchen that had a big window so you could peer into the kitchen and see all the action.  You could see Chef Monis overseeing the dishes, looking out into the restaurant to watch dinner service... you could see the phone ringing off the hook for reservations (note: call exactly one month ahead of time at noon to get reservations for a particular date -- if you can't get a reservation you can be put on a wait list.).  You see the chefs jotting down on an eraseable board the dishes they've made and gone through.  It is all rather distracting, but in a good way. 

Not only for the blog, but just in general, I love to take pictures of memorable dishes and memorable meals.  So of course, I had camera in tow at this dinner.  But, sadly, the restaurant prefers you not to take photos of the dishes, so I only came away with a photo of the first dish -- kampachi sashimi.  This photo is currently residing at my parents' house, so it'll have to be posted at another time. 

Coming on a Saturday, we enjoyed the 20-course chef's menu (the "progressive" menu) -- the courses are preset, but the restaurant is careful to ask ahead of time whether there are any dietary restrictions, allergies, and the such and can alter the dishes as necessary.  Below is what we had our dinner. The dishes change often, but so you can get a flavor for what we had...
  • Kampachi Sashimi
  • White Fish Sashimi
  • Brioche with Salmon and Caviar
  • Scallops two ways (This was one of my fave dishes -- smaller scallops piled on a spoon accompanied by thinly sliced scallops on a scallop shell with a sliver of black truffle)
  • Salmon Belly with Pinenuts
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese with Vegetables
  • Caesar salad in a Crispy Shell
  • Pork Belly Hoagie (another fave!)
  • Grilled octopus with Brussels sprouts
  • Serrano ham with potato and Asian pear
  • Figs with mascarpone cheese
  • Two pastas -- Ravioli and I think pappardelle
  • Our "entree" -- served family style!  Super tender baby goat and suckling pig (another fave -- the meat was so tender and juicy, and the skin very crispy) served with homemade pitas (one of my most favorite parts of the whole meal!!  Still thinking about those pitas hah) and various condiments on the side (my favorite was the green salt...).
  • Ricotta cheese and honey
  • Meyer lemon "creamsicle" on a stick (reminded me of a margherita)
  • Chocolate ganache (?)
  • A pineapple "cake" with coconut ice cream
  • AND housemade birthday animal cookies!  In the shapes of elephants, tigers... (loved these!)
Some of my friends have asked me how does it compare to Minibar -- Jose Andres' six-seater restaurant tucked in one of his other restaurants, Cafe Atlantico.  And, well, you can't really compare the two restaurants.  They approach the food in very different ways and the experiences are both wonderful and memorable.  For me, Minibar just edges out Komi, but that's my personal opinion -- I loved the whimsical dishes at Minibar, the opportunity to interact with the chefs as they crafted our dishes, and the laughter and silliness that sometimes ensued.  But Komi also wins out on certain flavors and dishes that have just stuck with me (for some reason, I can't stop thinking about their housemade pitas and suckling pig).  Either way you go, you'll leave with a memorable meal.

Komi Restaurant
1509 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 332-9200