Words (or my words, at least) cannot do Komi the justice it deserves. How can I even attempt to describe the epic 19-course tasting menu (plus wine pairings) that, for once, left me speechless from its brilliance? I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet and keep my gushing to a minimum.
Komi chef and owner Johnny Monis has created a gastronomic temple to his native Meditteranean cuisine, putting his own flair and technique on a mesmerizing array of Greek-inspired dishes since the restaurant’s opening in 2004. At 7 years old, Monis knew he wanted to be a chef. His first taste of the industry was working at his parents’ pizza restaurant in Alexandria. He workes at the venerable McCrady’s Restaurant in Charleston, SC and headed the kitchen at Chef Geoff’s before venturing out on his own to open Komi.
At Komi, diners play entirely by Monis’ rules, which luckily, tends to be in the former’s favor. Monis offers one $125 set menu, which begins with a series of light mezzethakia (Greek for small plates) and progresses to heavier, more substantial main dishes. Of course, he will accomodate diners with dietary restrictions or allergies; but if it’s simply a matter of not wanting to try new ingredients, then take my advice and trust Monis. Adventurous eaters will be more than rewarded.
Unfortunately, another one of Monis’ rules is no photography allowed in the restaurant–which means I’ve got to rely on good old-fashioned writing to describe the meal. While every single one of the nineteen courses was fantastic, there are a few that really stood out to me:
- Taramosalata: A bite-sized sphere of warm, toasted brioche topped with Greek yogurt, chives, and roe. The roe brought a salty brininess that was both enhanced and subdued by the cool, slightly tart yogurt.
- Sorbet: Not your average palate-cleansing sorbet. Shiso leaf sorbet sat atop a bed of cold smoked salmon, with candied pine nuts interspersed. Beautiful interplay of textures and flavors: intense sweetness from the sorbet balanced by the salty salmon, with accents of crunchy pine nuts throughout.
- Souvlaki: I mistakenly thought souvlaki could only be made out of chicken, but boy, was I wrong. Monis served his using pork belly–perfectly seared and crisp on the outside, luscious and fatty on the inside. My boyfriend and I wished we could have eaten 10 more of these.
- Tagliatelle with sausage, mushrooms, and blueberries: An unlikely flavor combination that was breathtaking in its exquisiteness. Every element of this dish just worked: the handmade pasta melted in your mouth, the housemade sausage added gentle heat to the dish, and mushrooms and blueberries provided earthy notes that brought everything together.
- Katsikaki: Komi’s infamous roasted goat shoulder. I’m not usually a fan of goat; I find it too gamey and stringey. But Komi’s rendition converted me. The meat was so tender, falling off the bone with a mere poke of the fork. The exterior also had a nice crust, full of zesty, salty flavor. Served with an aray of condiments (eggplant puree, oregano salt, hot sauce, pickled cabbage) and the best, doughiest, butter-laden pita bread I’ve ever had, it was certainly the most memorable and surprising dish of the evening. No wonder it’s one of their signature dishes.
- Loukoumades: I became a devotee of these Greek donuts drizzled in honey after the Saint Sophia Greek Festival. Komi’s version stayed true to the original, pairing them with Greek yogurt gelato. A whimsical tribute to Monis’ ancestral home and a lovely way to end the meal.
That, my friends, was not even half of the meal! It was a truly epic evening of marathon eating.
We gilded the lily even more by opting for the wine pairing ($68). Sommelier Kathryn Bangs chose 5 wines for us, starting with a sparkling white and progressing from there. My favorites were the Refosco/Mavrodaphne Mercouri Estate, Ilia Greece 2004 and the Moscato Blend, “Bigaro” Elio Perrone, Italy 2009. The refosco was a pleasant red that tasted almost like it had tropical flavors–hints of banana even. And the Moscato was divine–a crisp, ambrosial effervescent dessert wine. This ruby-red dessert wine was truly a gem: floral, light, and refreshing.
The service and the decor made us feel right at home. Servers were always on hand to refill water glasses and answer any questions about the food, never doing so in a pretentious manner. And with only 12 tables in its spare yet inviting dining room, Komi provides one of the most intimate dining experiences in DC. It’s exclusive without being snobby, lavish without being over the top–traits seen far less often than they should be at restaurants of this caliber.
And now, the million dollar question (or more precisely, the $193+tax question): is Komi worth the hefty price tag? I will admit, I hesitated many times about making the reservation, and vacillated between ordering the wine pairing or not. It’s just so expensive, I thought, how could one meal be worth that much?
But after that revelatory 19-course meal, where every course was even more extraordinary than the last, I can wholeheartedly say…YES. It’s worth it if you have the means or a special occasion to go. (Like the Obamas’ date night . Or I went for my birthday! And it was truly a memorable birthday at that. Here’s to hoping Komi needs a poster girl in the near future!)
1509 17th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036