2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013
"I don't like to stand in line, I don't care for spicy food, I hate restaurants that don't take reservations," says my fussy friend as we exit a hot spot that would seem to push all her buttons. "Little Serow is my favorite restaurant," she adds in the next breath.
While the underground dining room specializing in the hot, sour and herby notes of northeastern Thailand doesn't make exceptions for anybody -- the kitchen offers only a seven-course, family-style menu (no substitutions, nuts and meat included) -- the payoff is some of the most mind-blowing eating anywhere. Regulars who start lining up an hour before the doors open rhapsodize about fiery minced chicken liver scooped up with cool cabbage leaves and smoky pork ribs, succulent from brushes with Mekhong whiskey and fresh dill. Fresh reasons to return to the votive-lit green cave include tropical fruit cubes lined up in a row and piped with a funky mince of pork and peanuts, and stir-fried mushrooms, fresh chilies and holy basil crowned with a fried egg that when pierced becomes its dressing.
Bottom line: The $45 feast seasoned with dried shrimp, cashews, pig's ear, cilantro, lime juice -- more fireworks than the Fourth on the Mall -- is one you aren't likely to forget. If my friend doesn't like the restrictions, why is she so enamored of the 28-seat restaurant where bluegrass segues to something rockier as the night wears on?
Because Little Serow is the handiwork of Johnny Monis, chef of the four-star Komi next door, and tended to by some of the sweetest and smartest staff anywhere. "I feel like I'm eating in their home!" my friend sings.
2012 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
They don't take reservations at Little Serow (rhymes with “sparrow"), and they don't accommodate special requests. There's no sign on the door, but you sense something special must be happening behind it; there's always a line of folks waiting to get into the underground dining room when it opens at 5:30, never a minute before. Komi chef Johnny Monis is the big talent behind the trim celebration of Thailand, specifically the cooking from the northeast. Washington has never seen anything like this before: Earnest gals in vintage dresses guiding you through a six-course, family-style dinner that races from hot to sour to spicy and back. With honky-tonk on the soundtrack. Here's where I've enjoyed the lightest but also the most intense coconut soup ever, in a bowl shared with snowy catfish and tingling galangal. Hand-minced pork, liver and blood is funky and fabulous. The most demure-sounding item -- nuggets of fried rice with peanuts and mint -- is pure dynamite, thanks to dried chilies in the mix. (It's okay to cry here; chances are, you will.) Little Serow's beverage program is as enticing as the food. “Johnny's making his own vermouth now," shares my caretaker behind the counter. Of course the kitchen magician is.