Komi has a narrow dining room up a flight of steps in an unassuming building in Dupont Circle. The room is long and narrow, accommodating 42 diners with a view into the kitchen at the end. There is a wooden floor and plain walls, with candlelight the only illumination; music plays in the background, but is not overly intrusive. Komi opens only for dinner at the time of writing, and there is no menu: a series of dishes appears based on the chef's whim, though allergies/preferences are accommodated. No photos of the food are allowed, though given the candle-only lighting this is an academic restriction, since the light levels would be too low for anyone not using a night-vision camera anyway. Johnny Monis is the chef/patron; born in Virginia but with Greek heritage and growing up in a family-run restaurant in Arlington, he opened Komi in 2003 at the age of just 24 after working for three years at a Washington eatery called Chef Geoff's. Six chefs work in the kitchen.
The limited space of the building means a short but carefully chosen wine list, ranging in price from $40 to $320, with plenty of choice under $100. Examples were Meulenhof Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2010 at $52 for a wine that you can find in a shop for $19, Ramey Chardonnay 2009 at $90 compared to a retail price of $37, and Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 at $160 for a wine that will set you back $92 in a liquor store. The $70 wine pairing turned out to be a bargain. Wine pairings in London often seem a way for the sommelier to get rid of unsold wine, but here the pairings were both appropriate and included some excellent wines, such as a Donhoff Riesling and the lovely 1985 Rioja Alta 904; the sommelier was very knowledgeable.
The meal began with monkfish liver on home-made brioche, a simple but pleasant introduction, the liver flavour not too strong (15/20). Smoked trout roe with kale and toasted potato had a nice balance of flavours (15/20). A cube of coated deep fried spinach pie with a liquid centre was good, the spinach offsetting the richness of the fried breadcrumbs (16/20).
Next were a trio of spoons with: salmon with sea urchin, scallop with tahini and marinated mackerel with fish roe. These raw fish were of good quality, for example the scallop having good inherent sweetness (15/20). Spanish octopus with salsa verde, fig and green olive had a particularly well judged salsa verde, and although the octopus did not compare to some high quality cephalopod I had eaten In San Sebastian a few weeks earlier, it was certainly not chewy and had reasonable flavour (15/20).
Yukon gold potato gnocchi with Parmesan and chives was excellent, with lovely texture (17/20). Even better was rabbit liver mousse and pickled zucchini on home-made sourdough toast, the rabbit liver having lovely rich flavour and the pickling of the zucchini providing precisely the right balance to the richness of the liver (18/20). Beef tongue used Texas wagyu beef, served with foie gras, crisp Greek salad and matchstick potato crisps. The texture balance was good, the beef tender (16/20).
A date with marscapone roasted in the oven and topped with a little Fleur de sel was well prepared and the balance of sweet and salt was good, but I did not think the date was of particularly stellar quality (15/20). Pasta with butternut squash and pecorino with Greek sausage had pasta with very good texture, though the sausage seemed merely pleasant (16/20). The final savoury course was goat shoulder slow cooked and served on the bone with a series of condiments: sour cream, pickled mild red chillies, pickled dragon tongue beans and Greek mustard. The goat meat was very tender, falling off the bone, and the picked red chillies in particular were lovely (17/20).
Desserts did not live up to the standard of the savoury courses, which was a shame. Candied carrot with a filo disc and semolina was pleasant, but semolina is not an ingredient it is easy to get excited about (14/20). Brown butter gelato with cashew pralines was again decent enough but no more (14/20), whilst a trio of chocolates were a touch better, made from a blend of five different Valrhona chocolates. The quality of the underlying chocolate was high, the end result just quite good (15/20). Coffee, from a company called Counter Culture, was terrific, ultra smooth.
The bill came to $232 (£144) before tip. The waiters were extremely good, very knowledgeable about the dishes and clearly enthusiastic about their jobs. I really enjoyed Komi, and with a better pastry chef this has the potential to be even better than it already is.
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