Tag Archives: Obama

Komi: The Meal of a Lifetime

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!)

Komi

1509 17th St. NW

Washington, DC 20036

(202) 332-9200

Komi on Urbanspoon

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Burger Bonanza

The B.I.G. Poppa at Ray's Hell Burger

Last week, I attempted to be a vegetarian—and failed miserably. I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult, since I tend to cook vegetarian meals most of the time anyway. But after a full week of subsisting on salads, sweet potato risotto, and roasted brussel sprouts (recipes to follow in a later blog post), I suddenly developed a serious craving for red meat. And boy, do I mean SERIOUS—I had dreams of devouring thick, juicy burgers and steaks for days.

On Saturday night, I decided it was time to end my short stint as a vegetarian and indulge my craving for red meat. My boyfriend (who was shocked I suggested we go out for burgers) and I excitedly headed to Ray’s Hell Burger in Rosslyn, known for its thick burgers, gourmet fixings, and bargain prices. Ray’s Hell Burger also gained a lot of publicity last March, when President Obama and VP Joe Biden made stopped in for an unannounced lunch visit. (On a side note, I love that we have a foodie First Family.)

Inside Ray's HB

Ray’s Hell Burger is located in a mini mall/restaurant row on Wilson Blvd., Rosslyn’s main drag. It’s right next to Pho 79 (another of my favorite haunts) and Guajillo, a festive Mexican cantina (more on this later in the post). Though short on ambience, it more than makes up for this shortcoming with its flavor packed burgers.

The menu offers a basic burger ($6.95) with your choice of gourmet toppings which range from charred jalepenos to Ray’s Heck Sauce. The basic burger can be cooked in various styles, including blackened with Cajun spices, Diablo grilled (brushed with a spicy chipotle marinade), and au poivre with a black peppercorn crust. Other fancier toppings are available at an additional charge: imported double cream brie ($1.50), roasted bone marrow with persillade ($5.00), and seared foie gras with truffle oil ($10.00) to name a few.

The counter at Ray's: clearly they thought I was crazy

There are also signature Ray’s burgers, all of which have clever names (I was definitely cracking up while reading the menu). I absolutely had to order the B.I.G. Poppa ($7.95; pictured above) when I saw it on the menu: not only for the hilarious name (the caption reads, “We like it when you order B.I.G. Poppa), but also for the delicious combination of ingredients. The B.I.G. Poppa is an au poivre (black peppercorn crusted) burger with cognac and sherry sauteed mushrooms, grilled red onions, and aged Danish bleu cheese, all on a grilled warm bun.

From the moment I tasted the B.I.G. Poppa, it was pretty much love at first bite–and confirmed that I am, in fact, a lifelong carnivore. The crackly peppercorn crust subdued the intense flavor of the bleu cheese, which allowed the flavor of the meat to really shine. Ray’s Hell Burger uses trimmings from its sister restaurant, Ray’s the Steaks (which is also AMAZING), in its burgers, so the patty is extra thick, juicy, and flavorful. The cognac and sherry mushrooms and grilled red onions added a decadent touch to an already luxurious burger, and the lettuce and tomato added a hint of freshness. I washed the burger down with a 16oz glass of the on-draft root beer ($2.00)—not too sweet, and perfect with the burger.

The Soul Burger

My boyfriend ordered the Soul Burger Number One ($8.95), dubbed “the hardest working burger in chow business.” The Soul Burger comes with applewood smoked bacon, swiss cheese, cognac and sherry sautéed mushrooms, and grilled red onions. In my opinion, it paled in comparison to the B.I.G. Poppa, but it was still delicious nonetheless. I could definitely taste the quality of the ingredients in every bite: the bacon was thick and not too smoky, the swiss cheese mildly nutty, the mushrooms earthy, and the grilled onions sweet. We also split an order of large fries, which were crispy and golden–but it was clear that the burgers were the stars of the meal.

After our burger bonanza, I was stuffed. I looked at my boyfriend and declared, “I’m so full, I’m miserable!” He agreed. But somehow…we still managed to have room for dessert.

Sopapillas at Guajillo

My boyfriend spotted sopapillas on Guajillo’s (pronounced Wa-hee-yo) menu and demanded we order it for dessert. Sopapillas are fried bread puffs drizzled with honey–almost like a churro minus the sugar and cinnamon. Guajillo serves theirs with a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream–a steal for $7. The sopapillas were definitely enough for 2 people (the waiter laughed when I asked whether we should order 2) and a delicious deep fried ending to a fabulous night.

Ray’s Hell Burger

1713 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 841-0001

Guajillo

1727 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209-2503
(703) 807-0840

Ray's Hell-Burger on Urbanspoon