Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Firework of Flavors at Komi, the Best Restaurant in Town (Washington DC, USA)

Picture: Chef Johnny Monis and his Team (Source: Komi Website)

Komi is arguably the best restaurant in town (Washington DC, USA). Komi serves a set multi-course dinner for $135 per person, beginning with a series of mezzethakia – small, light dishes – and progressing to heartier flavors, including pasta and a family-style entrée, followed by desserts.

Komi is open Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations are difficult to get. You must call at noon, exactly one month before your chosen date. My friend Gunther, who in the meantime has returned to Germany, had managed to get a 5:30 pm reservation for himself and asked me if I was up for joining him. I did and spent a memorable evening with Gunther, while my wife Annette was visiting our daughter Katharina in Nepal.

Little Serow - Chef Johnny Monis' recently opened tiny northern Thai place - is next door and Johnny also spends time there during the evening. Little Serow is on the Washingtonian's list of 100 Best Restaurants 2013 - also no menu, prix fixe ($45) and no reservations; you queue up for a slot at 5:30pm and they call or text you when a table becomes free.

To do a posting on Komi is not easy: photos are not allowed, no written menu (but they send you one after the dinner) - the courses are announced only as they are delivered.

Bistronomics Cuisine

In a way, I would classify Komi as a bistronomics restaurant. Bistronomics food is generally referred to as high-end cuisine served at reasonable prices in a nice bistro-style outlet. A smart mix of economy, variety and seasonality. In Paris, bistronomics include Frenchie, Saturne, Le Chateaubriand, Rino, Yam’Tcha, La Bigarrade and Passage 53.  Le Chateaubriand is on the famous San Pellegrino Top 50  Restaurants in the World list. In Frankfurt, Germany, André Rickert at Weinsinn is showcasing bistronomic food.

The 2010 World's Best 50 Restaurants
Lunch and Beaujolais at Weinsinn in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Other bistronomics restaurants in Washington DC include Eola (which charges US$75 for five courses plus a series of small bites), Obeliske (which charges $72 for an Italian set multi-course dinner, just opposite of Eola) and Rouge 24 (which has a range of offers, from $75 to $135 for a 24 course menu).

Dining on the Cutting-edge - Daniel Singhofen’s Eola in Washington DC, USA 
Château Léoville-Poyferré Winemaker Dinner with Anne Cuvelier at Eola in Washington DC, USA

The Setting

Komi is a small place with only a handful of tables (mostly fours), with a half-open kitchen in the back. The interior is simple, warm, understated. With only the front window providing any real glimpse of sunlight, lighting is provided by candles on the walls and small lights hiding around the ceiling. Instead of Liszt, you hear Bright Eyes and Wilco. Flowers are absent from the table. Diners may be dressed as if for casual Friday at the office.

Picture: The Restaurant (Source:

The service at Komi is impeccable. Each course comes out to you in seamless timing; your table is constantly cleaned and re-set with new utensils, plates, and glasses.

The Food

Chef Johnny Monis invokes the Greek food and flavors he grew up with as a child both in the area, and by visiting his family in the Greek islands. Each course is a bit of a surprise. Each course delivers new flavor profiles that are equally enticing. Many of the courses are only a bite or two. Chef Johnny Monis is a master of one-bite works of art.

The Wines

Do not expect an extensive wine list with expensive, world class wines. The focus is more on niche wines, unusual wines in the entry and medium price level. The wine list at Proof, also in Washington DC, for example, is just the opposite: Pages and pages of world class wines from Bourgogne, Bordeaux, Napa Valley and elsewhere. I love to study the wine menu and choose my wine when I go to a top restaurant. Not possible at Komi.

Gunther and I opted for the accompanying flight for $70. The wine pairings menu was generous and consisted of interesting wines, but not of premium or even ultra premium wines, which I would prefer for the extraordinary food.

Rock ‘n’ Roll and Wine: Rolling Stones Live and Wine at Proof in Washington DC, USA

The Menu

Here is what we ate.

Trout Roe: The first course was an amuse bouche of steamed brioche, crème fraiche, and salmon roe.  Perfectly light but with some nice flavor. It did the job of an amuse-bouche: announced how the meal was going to go - interesting flavor combinations painted with a Mediterranean palette.

Picture: Trout Roe (Source: Yelp - Pui ying S.)

Spanakopita: The spanakopita was another one-bite wonder.  Due to its liquid center, the waiter recommended to eat it in one bite. It was lightly fried with spinach and feta cheese. There is a burst of flavor that elicits surprise and delight.

Sea Bream


Scallop: A two ways dish with scallops; the first was shaved scallop topped with rhubarb and served on an oyster shell, the second preparation was diced scallop formed together with coconut milk cream.


Quail Egg


Foie Gras

Dates: The marscapone stuffed dates topped with sea salt are a Komi classic. They come out piping hot. The salt adds a nice texture to the soft consistency of the date, and it also cuts the sweetness of the flavors.

Picture: Date (Source: Komi Twitter Account)

Salt Cod

Ravioli: The pasta course. It was an excellent intermediary dish - hearty yet a perfectly small portion to keep you hungry for the heavier dish to come. The noodles were thick and eggy, and the sauce was delicious with a touch of spice.

Katsikaki: The main course was a roasted goat, served with hot pita and lovely Mediterranean accoutrements: tzatziki, red onion mostarda, red peppers, and a sea salt. The goat had a crispy layer on top, but was also moist and fell off the bone quite easily.

Picture: Katsikaki (Source: Yelp - Michael U)




Lollipop: The feast's finale is another Johnny Monis’ signature - house-made lollipops.

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