Komi Raises Bar in Dupont Circle With Greek-American Cuisine
The interior of Komi is studiously sparse. It almost looks as though it were one of those Colonial dining rooms above a tavern in the authentically recreated section of Williamsburg, Va. But it’s not so much a Spartan aesthetic that shapes the dining room as much as the philosophy that “it’s all about the food”—so a fancy décor would merely be a distraction.
Regardless, the dining room has atmosphere. Candle sconces line both of the sponge-dabbed butterscotch walls, casting a soft warmth over the dark wooden dining tables. Hidden lighting behind the recessed ceiling helps with the low illumination, and small wooden alcoves along the walls house artifact treasures, such as a small wine barrel and writing table.
Komi offers a tasting menu that comes with several courses for , and the optional sommelier’s pairing raises the dinner tab another , making the total 2. The kitchen uses Greek cooking as a springboard for its culinary explorations, often combining traditional Greek with contemporary American cuisine to arrive at something new and delicious.
The plate of in-house cured green olives spackled with course salt was a nice amuse bouche intro. The crustini topped with salt cod and black truffles was another small plate that teased the possibilities of what might come from chef and owner Johnny Monis, who at 27 won last year’s RAMMY restaurant award presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) for Rising Culinary Star of the Year.
Oven-roasted dates with mascarpone lying in a puddle of olive oil and dusted with coarse salt were intriguing. The appetizer seemed to be enhanced by a Belgian golden ale called La Churfee, which was remarkably smooth yet hoppy with a little spice.
The ox-tail gyro with yellow tsitsiki and Greek spices was outstanding and zesty. Taramosalata, a fish roe salad, was accompanied by deep-fried potatoes. The chef’s creek included three varieties of farm-raised oysters with caper vinaigrette.
Sun-choked panacotta, fried chickpeas, charbroiled octopus and Jerusalem artichokes sprinkled with caviar made a gorgeous combination. Pastume turned out to be cured beef, persimmon slices, assorted baby greens and avocado. The last of the appetizers was a superb foie gras topped with crushed hazelnuts and lying in a bed of arugula.
The service was outstanding, implemented by a young team of friendly, attentive and extremely knowledgeable waiters.
On the entrée side, the potato ravioli with pumpkin chunks and truffles sprinkled with crushed toasted almonds was a glorious and complex combination of flavors and textures. Pappardelle was also excellent, the rich roasted baby goat ragu served with bits of tomato and handmade pasta and lightly spiced.
The venison medallions were charcoal grilled to medium rare and were as silky and tender as fillet mignon, with a buttery red meat flavor that was not at all gamey. It was accompanied by a delicate and fluffy venison mousakka and a hearty version of coleslaw, which came in the form of coarsely sliced cabbage and fennel, with crème fraische and red pepper.
The mixed grill consisted of pan-fried red mullet and sardines with faro, or emmer wheat. It was nice to see the kitchen using faro, which is now considered a relic crop. The entire fresh sardine was perfectly cooked and the juicy red mullet was superb.
Brook Headley is responsible for desserts, and they were no letdown. The cheese plate included a sampling of hard goat cheese, medium sheep cheese and soft cow cheese, with handmade oat crackers and candied kumquats.
A plate of Greek doughnuts with chocolate mascarpone was a high-end revision of a lowly traditional sweet. Apple pie spedinis were stuffed with apple pie filling and accompanied by black currant sauce and cinnamon gelato—and were the definition of a treat.
As we left Komi on the January night, we had a long walk to find our car on a forgotten side street of Dupont Circle. The walk did us good though—after all, it’s all about the food.
Komi 509 17th St., NW (202) 332-9200
Dinner: Tue. – Thu. from 6 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. from 6 p.m. (tasting-only dinner) Dress: Urban casual Reservations: Highly recommended
About the Author
Rachel Hunt and Stephen Qualiana are the restaurant reviewers for The Washington Diplomat.