The starriest restaurants tend to have more than superb cooking to recommend them. Consider Komi, the contemporary Greek restaurant with food by chef Johnny Monis and service by a collection of some of the most passionate waiters around. “You’ll be in our hands tonight,” one of them says as we settle into a dinner that doesn’t come with a menu, only the promise of many small courses leading to “rustic and heartier” plates. Sure enough, the first half of the night is a dream of exquisite one- or two-bite compositions. Steamed brioche the size of a quarter glistens with trout roe. Corn pudding warms the center of a fritter gilded with cool sea urchin. Here comes a cigar-shaped razor clam, strewn with bits of creamy avocado and yellow cherries. Gnocchi with a teaspoon of rabbit ragu melts on the tongue, and the hand-stamped pasta with lamb’s tongue is as sheer as lace. A request for wine pairings takes a diner to France, Italy and Lebanon, with voiceovers by some of the city’s most engaging sommeliers. (Madeira as a mid-meal sip? Keep in mind, history is on its side.) The arrival of a shared main course is almost anticlimactic, at least until you taste lamb celebrated three luscious ways, all of which are better in the company of warm-from-the-oven pita, tart yogurt and hot red peppers. (Goat, pig and bronzino are the changing entree mainstays, but in addition to lamb the kitchen has also featured veal and red snapper.) Helping close dinner is a perfect bite of cashew honeybrittle. The pale yellow dining room may be the simplest space anywhere to drop $500 a couple for dinner. But the memory of a night at Komi is priceless.
2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013
Komi requires its audience to trust it. There's no menu to choose from and your waiter doesn't offer much more of a forecast than this: The meal will segue from light to heavy, from fish to meat. "Ready?" he asks.
I'm always open to eating whatever Johnny Monis wants me to eat, be it a single scallop capped with a coin of persimmon, great raw fish from Tokyo, rabbit pate on sourdough toast or a single (and perfect) raviolo stuffed with earthy blood sausage. What links the many courses at this modern Greek restaurant is a reverence for great ingredients and superb taste.
Monis was honored for as much with the Mid-Atlantic Best Chef award from the James Beard Foundation this year. His extraordinary food is staged in a Spartan yellow room by servers who weave warmth with wit. A bottle of Arneis comes with a quip. "Little rascal," a server translates the Italian into English. When the accompaniments to a main course of crisp baby goat -- pickled peppers, puffy pita, thick yogurt -- run low, the waiter asks if we want "reinforcements."
Komi isn't inexpensive. But neither is a first-class ticket to Greece.