Wed 1 Oct 2008
<<UPDATE: As of 11:30 AM this morning (10/1), Komi’s website is back up and running. You can find them using the link in this update as well as others I’ve added throughout the post. Welcome back, Komi!>>
<<NOTE: Komi’s website registration expired on Saturday, September 27th, and their domain name appears to have been snapped up by AboutUs. As a result, we have not included a link to the website, but we will be sure to edit one in once their site is up and running again.>>
When you’re as into good food as we are, a special event like our recent anniversary is a prime opportunity to spoil ourselves with a truly extraordinary meal. Think Minibar. Think the Tasting Room at Restaurant Eve. Or, if you’re like us, think Komi.
When it came time to plan our anniversary dinner, I knew I wanted it to be at Komi. It had been more than two years since we had last enjoyed Chef Johnny Monis’ Greek-influenced tasting menu, and we were both jonesing for one of his amazing house-cured olives. But simply calling and making a reservation is far too easy for a restaurant with the kind of cache that Komi has enjoyed for years now. For us, the challenge was negotiating Komi’s month-long summer break and the ill-timed Washingtonian review that would undoubtedly result in a spike in reservations.
The harrowing tale of heroic reservation-making and our phenomenal meal after the jump.
When I first called to make our reservation, more than a month in advance, I was greeted with a voicemail informing me that Komi would be closed until September 23rd. No problem – the date we were looking for fell outside that window. But then I listened further and learned that they wouldn’t be taking reservations again until September 9th. If we waited that long and came up empty…
Thankfully, my years of being gouged by eagerly submitting myself to the Ticketmaster sales process had trained me well. When the reservation line opened, I was able to snag a reservation on our preferred evening. Knowing that a meal at Komi can easily run 2 1/2 to 3 hours, I made it on the earlier side.
Dinner at Komi can take one of two forms. If you’d prefer a bit more control, you can order the ‘dinner’ menu for $84. It allows you to choose a pasta course and an entree from a list of about 8 or 10 of each. But if you want the full Komi experience, put yourself in Monis’ hands by ordering the ‘degustazione’ for $20 more. This way, you get to enjoy an expanded roster of mezzethakia to start your meal, a cheese course afterwards, and you get pasta courses and entrees selected by the chef…presumably whatever he feels is best that evening. They offer three-glass and five-glass pairings with both, or else you can work with sommelier Basheer (who has taken over floor sales while Derek Brown concentrates on beverage consultation duties) to find something that works with your meal. We opted for the three-glass pairing, but found it a bit disappointing. Although we enjoyed the sparkling wine (one we’d had before), we found the subsequent wines decent but not especially impressive. It was frankly the only complaint we could muster over the next few hours, as service was attentive and the food was amazing.
The small appetizers that come, one after another, to start the meal are really the heart and soul of Komi. They show off Monis’ creativity while highlighting the quality of the ingredients used. In the past, the series has begun with house-cured olives, but we were out of luck. Apparently rough spring weather resulted in olive crops far below normal levels, and Chef Monis is such a perfectionist that he will only cure olives that meet his standards…you have to respect him for that.
Despite the absence of the olives, we were lucky enough to receive fourteen tastes spread out over nine plates:
- Smoked egg custard, served cold and topped with an oyster, sea urchin and shiso. The flavors were intense and the textures were all distinct but complementary. It started us off on a great note.
- Amberjack crudo, served in a cold-smoked turbot broth that was lightly salted and scattered with chives. The fish melted in your mouth and the broth gave it a wonderful smoky depth.
- A duo of Maine diver scallops. A crudo presentation thinly sliced and dressed with dots of mustard, accompanied by a scallop tartar served atop an artfully bent spoon with chopped beets.
- Skate with Greek yogurt. Though skate is not something we eat regularly, this presentation was without doubt the best we’ve ever tasted. It had that salty-sweetness that fresh seafood so often does, and the Greek yogurt gave it a tang that left us asking if we could get entree-sized portions.
- Salmon and eel tartar. Served in a cordial glass with a shiso sorbet and pine nuts, this was an elegant and light dish that managed to eliminate the usual chewiness of the eel.
- The Komi ‘wedge’ salad. A square of fried bread crumbs surrounds a hot puree of lettuce and is topped with Hook’s blue cheese and Benton’s bacon. It bursts in your mouth, delivering all the flavors of the traditional salad in one fell swoop. We loved it.
- House-made chorizo and black-eyed peas. After a parade of seafood dishes, this was the first meat offering and it was flavorful but not quite as impressive as what had preceded it. We enjoyed the sausage (I may have served myself before Elizabeth in my eagerness to taste it) and the peas, but it didn’t blow us away.
- Hanger steak tartar with potato-parsnip puree. A fun take on an American tradition. The tartar was silky and delicious, and the puree had a great texture. By themselves they were good – but together (and with a bite of the crisp that accompanied them) they were delicious.
- A plate of five faux desserts. This was an amazing presentation. In addition to the mascarpone stuffed date that is a signature item (seen before the jump), we received: foie gras cream puffs that were filled with a whipped foie gras mousse, a square of pepper gelee, a pair of cheddar-chive animal crackers, and a s’more made up of cheddar crackers, a goat cheese marshmallow and a spread of fruit paste. Each one was a savory work of art that had us anticipating sweet dessert flavors, and the s’mores (pictured at right) were especially good.
Pasta dishes followed – a pumpkin-filled ravioli served with goat cheese for me, and an egg pasta topped with more Benton’s bacon and shaved truffles for Elizabeth. Hers was served with a citrusy white (can’t even remember the varietal) and mine came with a Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes that ended up tasting bitter against the sweetness of the pumpkin. Although we enjoyed the pasta course, it paled in comparison to the mezzethakia, and the wine pairings didn’t really do much to remedy that.
And then came the main course, a section of a suckling pig presented for our approval before being taken back into the kitchen and reduced to a pile of shredded meat and crispy, salty cracklings. The entree was served with soft, chewy pita made fresh in-house and a tray of five accompaniments: basil salt, eggplant puree, habanero sauce, slaw, and an apple mostardo. To drink, we were each poured a glass of Williamette Valley Pinot Noir, definitely a wine you’d expect to be served with pork. We dug in with as much gusto as we were able after the steady stream of small bites, making little sandwiches and enjoying the interplay of the various flavors with one another. Thank goodness we did – the meat was perfectly cooked, juicy and chewy at the same time, and the condiments were wonderful.
We were fading (the meal was more than satisfying) but we still had a cheese course and dessert ahead. It’s hard to impress me with a cheese course, but Komi delivered. Not because of the cheeses themselves, necessarily, but because each of the five cheeses they served was matched up with its own accompaniment. The real standout was a tomme de aquitaine, an aged French goat’s milk cheese, which was paired with a compote of sour cherry and bay leaf. What a combination!
After such a luxurious meal, we each got an espresso as a pick-me-up and then moved on to dessert. Elizabeth’s burnt honey semifreddo was the clear winner, easily overtaking my hazelnut cheesecake. As a final gift from the kitchen (they knew it was our anniversary), we received fortune cookies that had “Happy Anniversary” printed on the ribbon inside, and our check was delivered with delicious peach lollipops that outlasted the trip home.
If you’ve never been to Komi, I hope you keep it in mind for your next special occasion. The price tag prohibits frequent visits, but the meal is well worth the price. There are quite a few voices out there saying that Komi is the best restaurant in DC right now. I’m inclined to agree.
1509 17th Street, NW
Open Tuesday-Friday beginning at 5:30 PM. Closed Sundays and Mondays.