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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Modern, Greek
Upmarket restaurant

Tue–Sat 5:30pm–9:45pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Essential


1509 17th St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 332-9200
DC’s best restaurant is vaguely Greek, vaguely molecular, and entirely amazing

In its precocious half-decade of life, Washington DC’s best restaurant has evolved from the pure, ingredient-driven love child of an obsessive local chef to a nationally known gastronomic destination.

Few can afford to make dinner here a regular affair: the prix-fixe runs $90 to $125 without wine, and for the privilege of spending this much, you must book weeks ahead. Yet the price is fair; there are restaurants in the city where you can spend twice this much on an experience that’s not in the same league.

The meal itself is the night’s worth of entertainment—and romance, too; it all happens in a sparse but candlelit dining room, set in an old brownstone. Even overzealous bloggers are forced to be more romantic than usual: photographing the food is prohibited.

The meal begins with “mezzethakia.” This is Komi lingo for a progression of small tastes, most of which occupy a space somewhere between minimalist and molecular. A recent visit yielded two tiny quenelles of hanger steak tartare and black truffle ice cream—a nod, perhaps, to the French Laundry school of modern American Europhilia. Sea-urchin vinaigrette and frozen shiso-leaf sorbet brought remarkable depth to a tartare of salmon, one of the most overused fish varieties today. Diver-scallop sashimi was served in two preparations, one with black truffle and the other suspended in gelée and finished with sea urchin, seamlessly blending the most rarefied tastes of the earth and the sea.

When the kitchen drifts away from pure ingredients and introduces more pretentious, technique-driven dishes—foie gras cream puffs, cheese animal crackers, goat cheese marshmallow s’mores—flavors can fall flat.

But few kitchens in America have as deft a handle on pasta as Komi’s. House-made spaghetti with sea urchin cream, fresh spring ramps, crab, fiery but judicious habanero, and Catalina uni is as complex and interesting a starch as has been served in DC all year.

The meats match the intensity of the pastas. In an age when many chefs gently bathe their meats in sous-vide pouches or olive oil, this one instead turns to the fire, creating textural studies like katsikaki (slow-roasted goat shoulder), matched with pickled cabbage, smoky eggplant purée, and other condiments. Some parts of the shoulder’s interior are tender, others supple and moist from the slowly melted collagen; the exterior is like a crisp, goat-flavored cracker.

Komi is competing on a national stage. With time, we’re confident that the culinary focus and experience here will only improve. Being there to witness the journey is one of the best parts of living in DC.

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