First of all, thanks to everyone who started following my blog! I’m so glad to see new visitors at my nook on the web. Please don’t be shy to introduce yourself (visit my new Guestbook page on the site!), I’d love to get to know you better and check out your blogs! 🙂
Now let’s talk about my favorite fine dining restaurant picks in Washington, D.C..
This January I was there on a short work trip and Mr. B decided to tag along which added a vacation theme to the whole thing. This meant I’d have the best guide I could wish for on my first visit to the city, plus a partner in crime for some gastronomic adventures [well, truth to be told, I’m the partner, he is the instigator, but we make a great team! ;)]. As usual, he researched and picked the restaurants and made dinner reservations for each night. While we were not disappointed by any of our choices, here are the three restaurants that were particularly striking (menu, service, and ambiance) and must be on your bucketlist of places to check out next time you visit.
Brought to you by Komi owner Johnny Monis, Little Serow is a small unpretentious looking restaurant near Dupont Circle with a funky country-style ambiance built in an English basement in the building next to Komi. It oozes charm with its subtle dim lighting, the low ceiling, and the brick walls painted in a turquoise color. Eclectic décor incorporates the repurposed wood and metal furniture, the white wood bureau that hides a cash register and the simple antique adornments behind it. A long white topped table lines the center of the room. Setting exudes nothing but the rustic country home feel. Expect a relaxed vibe as super friendly and chatty waitresses wearing vintage retro dresses welcome you with a jug of fresh water and strike a casual over-the-counter conversation. In the back, a team of chefs work furiously in an open kitchen for everyone to see. All this is complimented with a steady stream of upbeat old country music.
No advance reservations are offered for the $45 prix fixe 7-course feast (an obvious steal!) featuring family-style dishes inspired by northern Thailand. With just a couple of staples, the menu changes constantly highlighting seasonal ingredients and Chef’s innovative creations.
The only downside is you have to get there right when the doors open at 5:00 PM to snatch a spot in the first seating group. Since they have two seatings per night, some people wait in line, put in their names and come back at later slots. We arrived at 4:45 PM and had to wait 20 minutes, which in January can turn into a pretty inconvenient freezing experience. However, the moment you take your first bite you will build up more than enough heat to keep you sweating through the dinner.
Right as you are seated the waitress asks “do you guys like spicy food?” in much the same manner as warning signs ask you about heart problems before you board a roller coaster. The 7 courses served in a dynamic manner range in temperature from hot to nuclear. We had heard it was spicy; however it was a whole new level of HOT that we could not possibly prepare for.
To tame the heat and cleanse your palate, you will have an endless supply of a lantern of sticky rice (which I happily used to mop up the sauces), and a basket of mixed vegetables (cucumber, lettuce, radish leaves, Thai eggplant). I highly recommend ordering rice milk, a Riesling or something sweet to counteract the heat of the food and mitigate the spice.
Plates are meant to be shared and are well-portioned. The food is impeccable, and will start a party in your mouth that you will never want to leave. In our case, the feast kicked off with Nam Prik Pla Tu – mackerel paste with pork rinds. The flavors were fiery and salty-pungent. I loved the creaminess of the paste and the crunch of the rinds, it created a perfectly balanced texture in the mouth.
One of the highlights on the menu, Tom Kha, will change your view of a traditional Thai coconut soup. The nice delicate lemongrass flavor that you expect was present, but it was a refined flavor that Monis brought to the dish that made it extraordinary. It merged salty and sweet flavors perfectly and there was some earthiness from galangal. It incorporated the snakehead fish, which provided delicate and light flavor.
Each dish hits your flavor sensors in such a different way that you are constantly wondering what will be the next scrumptious surprise picked by the chef. The theme of the first 6 dishes was definitely bright and pungent. The selections were characterized with an explosion of flavors, which were individually striking and provided a strong and complex savor.
By this time every bite was painful yet captivating, however this dish kicked open the kiln door and simply numbed my tongue. The tofu was cooked heavenly, with perfect crispy shell, yet almost creamy on the inside. And cilantro paired with red onion and other regional spices brought the entire dish together without overpowering the tofu with its strong herbaceous flavors. However, the heat did not allow me to linger too long on my bites, which was a pity.
Our last savory dish was si krong muu: pork ribs marinated in Mekong whiskey and dill. These were everything you wanted them to be: fall-off-the-bone tender, sweet with not too much spice, delicious in every way. It is hard not to describe in anything but superlative words. Mr. B and I overwhelmingly agreed that the ribs won the day and were a fantastic end to an orgasmic meal.
The last touch was Little Serow’s version of petit-fours: small cubes of rice and coconut cream, an understated sweet bites to finish out the night.
It feels a little intimidating to be writing about hugely popular restaurant. What could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? But what I can tell you is, it is completely worth the money and completely worth the hype.
Listed among top restaurants in Washington D.C. for the past few years James Beard award winning restaurant Komi has hosted its fair share of VIP guests not to exclude The President and The First Lady of the USA.
Despite the huge hype, do not expect a posh ambiance or a pretentious atmosphere of a typical high-end restaurant (business casual attire is recommended, though). You don’t come here to be dazzled by decor. Instead, just like in its next-door sister Little Serow, friendly and highly knowledgeable wait staff welcomes you to an understated minimalistic setting with dusky-low lights. Here, the focus is exclusively on food and impeccable service.
There are two interesting similarities between Komi and Little Serow that I would point out:
- Prix-fixed menu;
- Warm and chatty wait staff wearing a “uniform” – the women wore 50s-style shirtdresses and the men wear sharp suits and colorful ties.
Mediterranean inspired fixed price tasting menu is a $135 per person parade of ~12 dishes served in a leisurely manner to create a relaxing, enjoyable and soul-warming dining experience. They also offer a $70 wine pairing. Alternatively, you could choose the beverages from their short Old World-focused wine and beer list; no cocktails are offered. Reservations are available up to one month prior to the calendar date.
Unfortunately, the restaurant has strict no photo policy and there is no written menu available (the courses are announced only as they are delivered), so I will have to suffice with a verbal narrative of our dining experience.
We were seated at a central table for two with a vantage point of the open kitchen. It was entertaining to watch the sous chef and kitchen staff hustle to plate exquisitely crafted bites of heaven. During one of our casual conversations with the waitress we also found out that Johnny Monis lives in the apartment above Little Serow and spends most of the day working on inventing new dishes and experimenting with flavors.
The dinner progresses beautifully from a series of mezzethakia – small, light dishes – to heartier courses, including seafood, pasta and a family-style entrée, followed by desserts. Each course is a bit of a surprise delivering enticing new flavor profiles.
Some of the first light dishes included an amuse bouche of steamed brioche, crème fraiche, and salmon roe. It was a perfect bite with complex layers of flavors – light and fluffy brioche, sweet and creamy crème fraiche and a tang of the sea from the roe – true fireworks in your mouth which set the entire mood of the meal.
The highlights of the menu were the small miracle of a roasted date stuffed with mascarpone, salted and coated in olive oil. They come out piping hot. The salt added a nice texture to the soft consistency of the date, and it also cut the sweetness of the flavors.
Dinner culminated in a make-your-own-gyro feast centered around a platter of roasted meat—the luscious young goat shoulder—served with warm-from-the-oven pita and a raft of sauces and accents including tzatziki, red onion mostarda, red peppers, and a sea salt.
House-made lollipops, a parting gift, are as good a reminder as any to step off the grid and savor a sweet pleasure.
Unfortunately we didn’t know that you can request the written menu to be mailed to you once you complete the dinner. So if you are a foodie like me and like to collect little souvenirs from your dining experiences, bear this in mind when you visit. 😉
When a butcher shop and a restaurant comes together a paradise for meat lovers is born! Located near The Archives metro station, The Partisan is a hip bar & restaurant serving meat-centric American chow & drinks in brick-walled digs. Their doors are always open for carnivores as the menu features brunch, lunch, midday and dinner choices. You’re here to gorge on charcuterie and wurst served up in a dizzying variety of ways.
The front right is the butcher shop, the front left is the restaurant, and the back half is the bar. They accept reservations which I’d recommend as the place seemed very busy even on Tuesday Afternoon. Modern and dimly-lit interior as well as the cozy seating create cool lounge vibes.
The main menu is broken up by proteins (beef, fish, etc.), vegetables, and sausages. A series of meat-centric composed dishes highlight distinctive cuts, cooking techniques, and animal breeds. Plates in each category range from snacks like barbecue pork rinds to larger portions (um, an entire pig’s head, anyone?). The dishes are generally on the smaller side, so be prepared to order 3 dishes per person. The portioning encourages sampling and sharing which works out great for couples. Meat-heavy courses can be paired with deftly made craft cocktails, wine or beer.
Our dinner began with grabbing a pen and marking up the charcuterie checklist menu (as you would a sushi menu) picking from ~30 items. We opted for two boards to start – a selection of wurst and a few deli cuts. Everything came out on a board accompanied with buttery mini-Italian style breads various condiments.
Each selection provided a flavor-packed bites. My personal favorites were black truffle infused bologna and traditional foie gras. The blended meat of the bologna was velvety in it’s fat content, smooth in the mouth, and the black truffle gave it an earthy taste that was addictive.
Loaded with all the meats I decided to go for a lighter dish for an entree course. My choice fell on a sublime seared foie gras with peach compote and maple-cider gastrique. Sweet, creamy and buttery amazingness just melted in my mouth. Peaches offered familiar sweet counter notes. Baguette was there for levity, but it was a wonderfully fatty melt-in-your-mouth bite.
Mr. B opted for the steak tartar which I got to sample as well. Mustard seed, fresh herbs and onion provided a nice accompaniment to the velvety smooth texture of the fine beef. The large egg on top was perfectly cooked and ran all over the tartar like a waterfall.
Overall, we loved the creativity of the menu, the knowledgeable staff and the presentation of each plate.
Before you leave you can shop around for the chefs’ favorite pantry items, including finishing salts, oils, spices. Red Apron’s house rubs and brines are also available, and over in the refrigerated section you’ll find the full lineup of charcuterie and pâtés, sauces, stocks, and more.
All in all, the first trip to D.C. was a total success (minus the cold weather!). With a wide array of historic sights and museums, as well as abundance of delicious meals, the city treated us wonderfully. Stay tuned as I will soon be writing about top attractions in the capital. Personally I cannot wait to go back during warmer seasons to enjoy longer days, leisurely walks and check out more culinary gems in town.
Which are your favorite restaurants in D.C.? Comment and share your recommendations! 🙂