The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide as No. 10 on Tom’s Top 10.
A lot of four-star dinners pile on the creature comforts. Komi, a spare yellow dining room that simply covers its tables with linens, impresses visitors instead with uncommon consideration and food that looks exactly like its billing but, in the hands of chef Johnny Monis, tastes as if fairy dust had been sprinkled over it. Scripts and preparations change, although I’d be thrilled to repeat the most tender octopus in memory, gyro-seasoned lamb sausage with fried potatoes and foie gras that summons summer with pickled chanterelles, wild blueberries and sweet corn. The constants: a button of warm seaweed brioche capped with trout roe to start, a couple of perfect pastas, perhaps a rustic chunk of meat that trumpets the chef’s Greek heritage and, with the check, house-made lollipops in such fascinating flavors as rhubarb with sumac. To splurge on the wine pairings is to meander around France and Italy, and Germany and Spain, under the wing of a knowledgeable storyteller. Monis, one of the finest chefs of his generation, has always marched to his own beat. Komi, his modern Greek temple, makes an ample case for doing it his way.
Komi: 1509 17th St. NW. 202-332-9200. komirestaurant.com.
Prices: Prix fixe $150.
Sound check: 70 decibels / Conversation is easy.
The Top 10:
The following review was originally published Sept. 25, 2015 as part of The Washington Post’s 2015 Fall Dining Guide. Komi was No. 9 on Tom’s top 10 last year.
Hate surprises? Consider a restaurant other than Komi, the modern Greek restaurant from Johnny Monis and his wife, Anne Marler, in Dupont Circle. All you’ll be asked at the outset is if you have allergies or restrictions (the kitchen can handle them) and whether you want wine pairings for an extra $70 a person (just nod yes). Beyond that, you’re simply told to expect some little bites followed by bigger ones and invited to relax and let the restaurant take care of you.
That Komi does — exquisitely — for the next several hours. One-bite wonders, many involving fish, swim to the table: warm seaweed brioche capped with shimmering caviar; rosy sea trout garnished with its roe, crisp skin and a sliver of tangy cucamelon; a soft coin of carrot gilded with sea urchin; perhaps grilled Spanish octopus poised on a puddle of pureed golden raisins. A tiny block of panisse (chickpea cake) topped with a quenelle of smoked vegetables proves that the kitchen doesn’t need flesh to impress, although the centerpiece of a recent dinner — roasted lamb neck escorted by house-baked pita and hummus — brought Greece to Washington. Smart and engaging, the servers are the sort you want to invite to your next cookout. “We drank oceans of this on our beach vacation,” a sommelier says as he pours my new favorite sauvignon blanc blend, Nico Lazaridi, from Drama, Greece.
Louder than I remember it at peak hours, the spare, sponge-yellow dining room hasn’t changed much since Komi opened in 2003; the restaurant pours all its effort into feeding you, body and soul — a four-star priority.