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Mon, Feb 21 2005 at 12:11 PM

Valentines Day @ Komi

Posted by Jason, Feb 21, 2005

Valentines Day was very special this year - Partly because of the great food, but mostly because of something else. At about 3 PM, I left work to meet Amy at the radiologist's office in Bethesda. Amy was having a sonagram to find the heartbeat of our 8-week-old baby growing inside her. Amy was about as nervous as I've ever seen her, terrified that there wouldn't be a heartbeat. At about 4:20 PM we were called into the examination room. The technician started performing the sonagram and at first there was nothing on the screen. Then I sort of saw something on the screen - a little spot that seemed to be fluttering. I think Amy and I saw it at just about the same time. Soon after that the technician said, "There it is. I'll let you hear the heat beat." BA BUMP. BA BUMP. BA BUMP. BA BUMP. BA BUMP. 160 loud beats a minute. The spot that we saw fluttering turned out to be the heart. And then the technician said, very appropriately, "Happy Valentines Day!" I don't think it had occured to either me or Amy how appropos it was that we were doing this on Valentines Day until the technician said that. LOL. You can read more about the Sonagram Story at Amy's site.

After the sonogram was over, we headed home. I stopped to pick up a few things, groceries, something from Tiffany's, etc. (in case you couldn't tell, I spoil Amy). We weren't home for too long before it was time to go to our reservation at Komi. Just as it was time to leave, it started to rain, and of course, we didn't bring an umbrella. I was trying to hail a cab on Wisconsin Ave. What is it with the shortage of cabs lately!? I probably stood there for 30 minutes trying to hail a cab in the poring rain. To say the least, I was soaked. Luckily, Amy was able to hide under a Metro bus waiting area. We finally found a cab that was actually pulling out of our street.

The good thing was that we were out of the rain. The bad thing was that this taxi driver was the worst we've ever driven with. First, our reservation was at 7:30 and we were already late. This driver practically rolled down the street. Only one pedal existed for this driver, and it was the break. I kindly asked him to speed up because we were in a hurry, so he started using the gas. JESUS CHRIST GO FASTER YOU ASSHAT! I'M HUNGRY! YOU DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH ME WHEN I'M HUNGRY! OK. I didn't actually say anything, but I wanted to scream. Not only that, but the driver decided that he was going to go the scenic route through Columbia Heights to get to 17th and P. AAGGHHH!

We finally arrived. We were about 20 minutes late. I HATE being late for a reservation. Sebastian Zutant, the Wine, Food, and Service Director at Komi (and the person who took my reservation), was at the door greeting people. He introduced himself to me (I'd never met him in person) after we told him who we were. It was nice to finally meet him. We were seated right away and had a pick of places to sit.

The menu was completely different from out last trip. Only a couple dishes remained that I recognized - the Marinated Yellowtail and the Braised Short Ribs. Amy immediately had this panicky look on her face. She was worried that her stomach wouldn't be able to handle the food. Pregnancy is taking its toll on her. She's had to eat like a poor college student, feasting primarily on Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese, Spaghettios, and Ramen Noodles. I knew the tasting menu would be off limits this time -- It's just way too much food for Amy. It was no loss, though. There were plenty of great dishes to order off the menu a la carte.

When we ordered, I asked the waitress if it would be possible for them to bring me a wine pairing with the dishes I ordered. Amy wasn't drinking, but that wasn't stopping me - if anything I need to drink more now ;-). I'm not sure this is something they normally do, but she went and talked to Sebastian about it. I guess he said it was ok, because they brought out four wonderful wines with my dishes. I'll go into detail later.

Before our dishes came out, our waitress brought by the little demitasse (small cup) of soup. This time it was a mushroom soup topped with what I thought was sour cream. I wasn't all too crazy about this. I mean, it was better than most mushroom soups I've eaten, but I'm not usually one for mushroom soup. Put it this way, Amy couldn't eat all of hers, so I finished it for her. If it was "bad," I wouldn't have done that.

For our 1st course, Amy ordered the Calabaza Soup. There were two melted marshmallows on the top of it. Amy could also taste strong hints of curry, which we always love. It was very similar to the butternut squash soup we had last time - but better :). For those of you who don't know what a Calabaza is (and that included myself until I just looked it up), it is a South American pumpkin. I, on the other hand, chose to go with the Hen of the Woods Mushrooms with Papardelle and sheep's cheese. The Papardelle pasta was perfectly cooked. It reminded me of my trips to Il Pizzico in Rockville. I also saw some parsley and olive oil. I didn't really taste the sheeps cheese on it's own, but the whole dish eaten together was outstanding. The mushrooms had a very mild flavor. This dish pretty much made the meal for me. Chef Johnny Monis has a great ability to pick out mushrooms for his dishes that don't have that pungent mushroom flavor to them. For this course, I was given a spicy Soave from Verona, Italy, which was "completely coincidental and not intentional," as Sebastian stated. (The soundtrack for "Romeo + Juliet" was playing in the restaurant when he brought it over.)

Amy opted to skip the second course, but they brought her a little something anyway - a few blood orange slices with yogurt, avocado, pine nuts and baby greens. I think the Chef felt bad that some ass was making her watch him eat the yellowtail. The artistry and attention to detail that went into the creation of this dish amazed me. It was perfect for a pregnant woman and settled her stomach down. Meanwhile, my yellowtail was just as good as the last time I had it. Like last time, it was served with a tiny spoonful of greek caviar and thin-sliced, fried fingerling potato chips. It was served raw and marinated in what I thought was a lemon vinegar. The glass of wine I was served with the yellowtail was a slightly fruity glass of Di Lenordo Tocai Friulano from Fruili, Italy. I LOVE Italian whites.

For the third and final course, I had it down to a decision between the speck-wrapped tuna and the roasted pork. I was incapable of a decision so I let our waitress decide. (It turned out that we had the same waitress as our last trip. She was great!) She convinced me to get the tuna. It came served on a bed of bulger wheat, mango, olive oil and seranno ham - a mixture of ingredients that I never would have pictured going so well together. The tuna itself could have been cooked a lot rarer. I like my tuna still flapping on the plate. The speck wrapping was a wonderful added touch. The smokey flavor of the meat complimented the flavor well. With my tuna, I was served a glass of a 2003 Le Paradou Grenache from Cotes du Luberon, France. I'm usually never one to drink a grenache, but I really liked this. It was just slighly sweet enough to compliment the salty, smokey flavor of the tuna and speck.

Amy's ribeye was absolutely, perfectly medium, like she asked. Well, actually, a little more on the medium-rare side, but that's really the way she likes it anyway. She only ordered it medium because the site of blood makes her stomach do loops. It came with a creamy spinach paste. Overall, I found the flavor of the paste a little too strong for the ribeye, but that was after eating my dish, which had some pretty stong flavors itself.

For dessert we chose to chare the Key Lime Flan. It was very TART! A little too tart for my taste, but still very good. If any of you have had the blood orange sorbet at 2 Amys, you'll know what I am talking about by TART. As far as texture was concerned, it was right on. Firm and not mushy as flans tend to be.  Anyone who isn't into really sweet desserts will love this. The flan was also served with a side of chamomile sorbet, which helped settle Amy's stomach after the ribeye. Sebastian brought me a small yet interesting glass of German wine, which wasn't on the menu, nor was it really a dessert wine. The name escapes me, but I remember him saying that I'd need German characters to write about it. :-)

The cost of the meal when it comes to a restaurant like Komi is really inconsequential, but if you must know...The bill came to about $145 - Well worth it. That included two appetizers, one middle  course, two entrees, a dessert, and my wine pairings. Your first courses run from $7 for the soup to $13 for foie gras. 2nd courses (or Thalassina, according to the Komi menu) are priced from $8 for grilled squid to $14 for the oysters. Entrees run from $17 to $22. Desserts cost about the same as you first courses. As far as the wine menu goes, Sebastian Zutant had done a wonderful job picking out wines that complement the dishes on the menu. Glasses of wine cost anywhere from $6 to $9 -- really quite a bargain considering what other similar restaurants in the area charge for a glass of wine. As far as bottles are concerned, there are many in the $20 to $40 range.

As usual, service was excellent. The ONLY time I had any issues with service was the first time we visited Komi, and even then, I only got pissy because my drink glass wasn't kept full.

Komi
1509 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 332-9200
Map

Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: None - street parking is a rare in Dupont. No Valet either. I recommend taking a cab (just find a cab driver that drives faster the 20 mph and knows where the hell he's going).
Reservations: Taken
Bathroom rating: Immaculate.

Read about my previous trips to Komi here.

Categories: Dupont Circle, New American, Restaurant Reviews
Link To This Post

Jon

So do you think Komi is the best place out there right now?

Also, headed to Palena on Friday. Can't wait.

SS Gaelan

Great Komi review- one of my neighborhood faves! However, I am not sure why you'd go out of your way to introduce yourself to the wine/seating guy and identify yourself as a food blogger. Doesn't that completely compromise the experience you had there? The special treatment is not something an average DC foodie, turning to your site for tips on where to dine out, would receive. And it brings to mind lots of criticism I've seen from professional food and restaurant critics about the nature of bloggers in general and food reviewers in particular. This is my 2nd time to this site but it did make me wonder, that's all.

Jason

SS,
This is something I struggle with a lot but let me tell you my thoughts on this. First, I didn't mean to give myself away when I gave my name for the reservation. I don't exactly expect people to recognize my name (or my face, especially with the horrible picture in my nav), and I am starting to get used to that. However, if I thought that I could possibly have a bad experience at Komi, I'd probably be more secretive about my presence, and use a fake name.

Most restaurants I go to, I don't identify myself in any form and the people who work there don't know who I am. I only let the people there know who I am after I've eaten there a ton of times and I know the place is really good. Up until V-Day, the only places at which I'd identified myself are 2 Amys and Passage To India (and that's only because Chef Sudhir is a frequent reader). Oh, and one time after Amy and I ate at Corduroy, the manager came over and introduced herself to me, but that was after the meal.

People can butter me up all they want, but it's not going to change what I write. I'm not in this to make friends with people. I do take very seriously, though, any negative comments that I give to a place and I try to weigh the concequences of what I write here, with any effect it could have (however small) on the livelihood of the people who own the restaurant.

When it comes down to it, though, I'm a whore. I get absolutely nothing out of this except the gratification that people are out there reading this site and that I'm helping people find better places to eat. The money I make on the Google Ads barely pays for the hosting fees, and if I get a comped drink every once in a while, then it's just a little bonus for the hours and hours I spend writing every week.

Jason

Jon,
It's hard to say that a restaurant is "the best". When it comes to New American food though, Komi is easily one of the best places in DC right now. If I were going to have a top five list of restaurants, it would definitely be at the top right now. I'm very interested in eating at Corduroy again though.

KeithA

Thanks for the great review - still haven't made it to Komi yet :-(

But I had to say Congratulations on the baby! That's wonderful - hopefully it won't hamper you're restaurant reviewing days too much.

Tommy

Hey we were there! The same night I might add. I think I took out a second mortgage to pay for the tasting menu. I'm glad I didn't pay for the wine with that or else I would've gotten shitfaced (yes I'm a lightweight). Ditto on the mushroom cappucino it tasted puree'd feet! I was expecting some smurfs to pop out of the soup or something. late

Jake

I have to say, Komi seems like one of the last places where it would make a difference if they know who you are, because the service and food are uniformly excellent regardless.

At any rate, great review--it made me want to go back soon!

Jason

Tommy,
You were there the same night? What time? The tasting menu wasn't there usual tasting menu. They usually do 2 - a 5 course and a 7 course that isn't as expensive. The 5 course is totally enough food for anyone. I think they were doing that 8 course bohemoth for V-Day. I hope you enjoyed the food.

dupont barkeep

Most experienced DC restauranteurs recognize Sietsema when he comes in, but he can still give a fair review, and so does the author. Plus I would imagine that the chef cooks the same thing for bloggers as he does anyone else. Great detailed review.

Matt

I struggle with this because I have been to KOMI and my views are not so favorable. We went on the suggestion of my girlfriend's boss, who knows the DC restaurant scene professionally, but I left unimpressed. If you look at the dishes, they put such on emphasis on presentation (to an almost unnatural level) that the food gets lost in it all.

I felt I was in that Wendy’s commercial where Mr. Thomas is looking at those esoteric dishes with a confused look. For example, the crab-sea urchin app, I was like "where is the rest of it?" Also, I had the duck trio and while visually appealing, felt that the flavor was off key; the breast was overcooked and the confit was somewhat dry.

I will say the desserts at KOMI are pretty good both in presentation and flavor – they had a mascarpone ice cream milkshake that was stellar! Your mention of the key lime flan certainly fancies my interest to the point of where I may have to go back, albeit reluctantly, to try it.

I do wholeheartedly agree that the service there is great - very informative, prompt, and friendly. However, service is only a portion of the overall experience. I just felt they were trying to be too trendy. While I know Mr. Sietsema has rated it very high as you have, I get lost trying to find the motivation to put it above Kinkead's, Corduroy, Citronelle, DC Coast – I just can't.

David

Jason, you're being naive about how restaurants work. The risk of being recognized is not that you'll then become friendly with the people at the restaurant and therefore be reluctant to criticize them. The risk is that they'll prepare the food and provide service more attentively for you than they would for an anonymous customer. It happens all the time. Professional reviewers go to great lengths to conceal their identity, and restaurant managers and chefs go to just as great lengths to discover the reviewers. You might consider removing your photo from your site and using a pseudonym for your reservations.

Jason

First of all David, you're overestimating the popularity of this site. There are very few restaurants out there (especially at the time of this post) that are aware that this site exists. I know this based on the number of restaurants that I go to and receive horrendous service. I'm not naive. I understand fully what restaurants go through to find out the identities of Tom S. Hell, I myself have gone through a small effort to find out what he looks like, mainly because if I did see him at a restaurant eating at the table next to me, I'd want to say, "Hi". But, that's because he writes for THE POST, which has close to 2 million subscribers and that's just to the print edition. PLUS, TOM S IS PAID! A LOT (at least I'd guess he is). I on the other hand, am not.

david

if it's of any interest to you, the book Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, is about a food critic and the lengths she went to to conceal her identity.

Mariya

I LOVE your reviews; they are thorough and always right on! However, this one about Komi has a one orthographical errors and one grammatical slip-up ... here are the words as they should be. Please take this as constructive criticism; I edit by nature so I just want to help.

INCOSEQUENTIAL
COMPLEMENT

"The cost of the meal when it comes to a restaurant like Komi is really inconciquential, but if you must know...The bill came to about $145 - Well worth it. That included two appetizers, one middle course, two entrees, a dessert, and my wine pairings. Your first courses run from $7 for the soup to $13 for foie gras. 2nd courses (or Thalassina, according to the Komi menu) are priced from $8 for grilled squid to $14 for the oysters. Entrees run from $17 to $22. Desserts cost about the same as you first courses. As far as the wine menu goes, Sebastian Zutant had done a wonderful job picking out wines that compliment the dishes on the menu. "

Jason

LOL. Do you mean INCONSEQUENTIAL? Thanks for the tips, I'll update the post.

Jordan

Headed to Komi on Sat. with my parents and after reading such great reviews, I'm very excited to check this place out. However, I know a pet peeve of my father's is high prices with small portions...what are the portions like at Komi? I don't mind if the portions are small but I might want to consider going with a different group if that's the case.

Jason

Personally, I like the size of the portions. I used to have the same opinion as your parents, and if you actually go back and read my first ever post about Komi, you'll find that I had the same complaint. The problem was that I was trying to go to Komi and get away with just ordering an appetizer and entree. But, Komi isn't the place to order just an appetizer and and entree if you have an appetite like me. If you don't, and you're like my wife Amy, you can get away with only 2 courses. The prices at Komi ARE getting a little more expensive, but if you compare the prices that other similar restaurants charge for the same quality of food, they are still on the cheap side.

JNo

I was dissapointed with Komi. I think it tries a little too hard to be haute, when what we really need on 17th Street is a place that's just a good neighborhood restaurant. The protions were skimpy and the menu, for me, needed a lot of explanation and really I'm not an idiot. I've been there twice most recently about a month ago. It had me longing for the simplicity if Vivo. I think Hank is a better and more appropriate addition to the' hood. Just MHO.

Martha

Hi! I have been here all week on business and was really looking forward to going to Komi based on your review and it is GONE, kaput, cleared out. I'm so disappointed! I love reading your blog. Thanks.

Jason

It's not gone. It's being renovated. Should open next week - 1/17 I believe

Justin

Just went this Saturday and my one (and only!) negative comment was that the multi-course menu was TOO MUCH food. Other than the fact that my girlfriend and I had to be rolled out of the restaurant, it was absolutely fantastic, from the food to the pacing, the service, the wine pairings, the atmosphere, the value. Top experience ever in a DC restaurant.

D

I was there last Friday evening. The food was phenomenal. It has been a long time since we went out on our own for a dinner. We have to request for our babysitter to stay longer so I really needed the restaurant to be worth the trouble. Komi was great. Great service, great food, good wine.

MD

Tried Komi to celebrate a special night with the hubby and had such a wonderful experience!!! The tasting menu was an awesome value and the food was fantastic. They also have a great wine list.
Note to Jason: Since moving to dc, we have been really disappointed in the "best" restaurants covered by the Washingtonian and the likes of Tom Sietsma. I am SO happy to have discovered your website and finally have a reliable restaurant critic to read!!!! Thanks!!

KAR

An awesome 5 course tasting menu last night! I love the way they bring the appetizer tasting out one by one instead of one big plate. Warm Medjool dates stuffed with mascarpone and topped with olive oil and sea salt.OMG I thought the price was very reasonable $58. BTW we sat behind you and Amy at Corduroy just before the baby was born. Congrats!

DS

I took hubby to Komi last night (Saturday) for the first time as a 10th anniversary dinner, and we both had an amazing, amazing time!

We enjoyed the chef's tasting/5 course meal, but definitely could have stopped after the 3rd course because we were so stuffed. Of course, we still enjoyed our cheese dish with an amazing little candied-tomato torte, and at least tasted our desserts. (Mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches made for a light ending; the doughnuts were not the smartest choice at that point.)

Favorites of the evening: -haloumi cheese with amazing steak tartare
-homemade papardelle (pasta) with baby goat ragout


One note: your comment about no street parking is apt. However, there is a parking garage ($5 evening through midnight) that is around the corner, on P Street, between 17th and 16th.

Jason

I'm glad you had a good time at Komi DS. My wife and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary last Tuesday and we had a great time as well!

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