Sunday, January 28, 2007

eating D.C.: Komi

Have I mentioned that I have the best husband ever? For my birthday, he signed me up for a CSA share from Bull Run Farm. We got a combination vegetable/fruit subscription; some weeks there might also be flowers or some honey from the farm's bees in our share. I can't wait to finally have some garlic scapes!

That was the delayed-gratification part of my birthday, since it won't start until May or so. The instant gratification came from our dinner at Komi, the D.C. restaurant I've been most looking forward to trying (D.C. food bloggers rave about it). Chef/owner Johnny Monis is a mere 27 years old. I had a good view of the kitchen from where we sat, and I could see him in there, painstakingly plating everything. I know that a lot of chef/owners can be a bit removed from the day-to-day workings of the kitchen, but this guy's very involved in the details. And oh, the attention to detail is what makes Komi great.

Komi does "slow food" in the best possible sense: the restaurant is tiny, warm and inviting; your meal takes three hours, and for those three hours you are well taken care of. In a world where we all go out to eat too often, Komi is still a special-occasion experience. And yet they make you feel comfortable enough to put your elbows on the table. The servers know their stuff, but they don't talk down to you. The food is incredible, but never overly precious. It's fine dining, but the overall vibe is comfy.

We ordered the tasting menu, plus the optional wine pairings. I'm glad we did: instead of fumbling through the wine list and blindly choosing a bottle ourselves, we got a sommelier-guided tour through the highlights of the wine list, tailored to what we were eating. (We even got to try some very tasty Greek and Hungarian wines. Who knew?)

The first course actually consisted of eight or so mini-courses: a few house-brined olives, a fried ricotta ball, a little sunchoke panna cotta with a quail egg inside. A little oxtail sandwich with tzatziki, some sauteed octopus, cured beef with persimmon and avocado. (And corresponding veggie counterparts for Mark.) Every time we thought the parade of small plates was done, something new came out. Oh, and the best was a mascarpone-stuffed date, which may be the single tastiest bite of food I've ever had. The date was caramelized, and it was drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. The overall effect was that of a creamy salt caramel. So many layers of flavor in one little bite. I'm still thinking about that bite days later.

After the series of small plates was done, there was the pasta course: truffled potato ravioli for Mark, tagliatelle with wild boar (!), cocoa and mint for me. (In between courses, our server brought us three kinds of house-made crackers. See what I mean about detail?) For the entree, I chose the roasted turbot with blood oranges and some kind of creamy celery root polenta. Mark had a vegetable platter: Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, the same celery root polenta, and haricots verts with little slices of pickled red onion.

Next came the cheese course: Gouda, Camembert and candied quince in a vanilla-bean-specked syrup, with homemade oat crackers. Mine was served with a glass of vin santo; Mark had another kind of dessert wine, the name of which is escaping me. For dessert, Mark had blood-orange granita and I had the Greek doughnuts with chocolate mascarpone pudding. I thought the donuts were just OK -- they may have been overhyped in the reviews I read -- but the pudding was fantastic. Even when the check arrived, the parade of treats wasn't over, as it came with two house-made lollipops (pina colada flavor).

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Blogger Sarah said...

Happy birthday!

The dinner sounds amazing.

7:27 AM  
Blogger lis said...

yes, happy birthday!!

the dinner sounds fabulous, especially right now when I am eating bad french onion soup from a styrofoam cup.

11:58 AM  

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