My first suggestion if you are planning on dining at the Dupont Circle restaurant Komi: Don't go on a Saturday night! Ok, granted we had a 8:15 reservation, didn't show up for it until 8:30, and due to one straggler didn't order our food until past 9 pm, but 2 1/2 hours for dinner with an hour wait between courses is a bit extreme. Yet the slowness of the kitchen also hints to the charm of the restaurant, Johnny Monis, the owner and chef, after all is only 24 years of age. The menu takes the ingredients of American comfort food (pork, black eyed peas, collard greens, bacon, lots of bacon!) and twists them with Mediterranean (his parents are Greek and Komi references a beach in the Greek Islands) influences (lime pickle, cardamom, cumin, sardines).
We started dinner with a basket of house made bread, focaccia, sour dough, and cheese crackers, accompanied by a cast iron ramekin of olive butter. Next came a gift from the chef, a tea cup of soup: carrot, kiwi, and lime with curry flavors. The soup was very salty, almost briny, yet was still pleasing.
Komi's menu is fairly short and with five of us dining we were able to explore a good portion. The winner among the appetizers was the chicken and pistachio pate, 3 slabs of creamy bright green pate, served with slices of bread, home made mustard and a pot of pickled vegetables (sweet and sour gherkins and thin slices of beets were the best). Also tasty was the peekytoe crab (claw meat) with avocado, grapefruit, and local arugula, the dish's light flavors reminded me of some of the fare served at Charlie Trotter's. Also interesting were the fried sardines, served atop a bundle of swiss chard and pine nuts and a puddle of lime pickle.
Despite the long wait between courses, the entrees were also well received. I cured my affliction for hanger steak, which was served nicely rare along side an apple radish puree and a pot of chimichurri (jalapeno sauce). Another star dish was the tea braised pork belly, grilled pork tenderloin with brussel sprouts and apple. The pork belly was plenty fatty and the tenderloin, as the name implies, very tender. Scallops were served lightly breaded and sautéed, along with couscous mixed with spring beans, figs, basil, and sunflower seeds. Finally, crispy skate came with a rye crust, paired with black lentils and collard greens. We rounded off dinner with a plate of homemade doughnuts and a rich cup of hot cocoa. The check arrived with five lollipops, compliments of the chef.
Over all the food at Komi was very good, served in a hip, spare setting often not seen in DC (though we thought the lighting could be dimmed a touch). Many times I could see what the chef was going for in the dish, most of the time he pulled it off, yet I got the feeling that each dish was one step away, perhaps one ingredient, one sauce, one final twist, from rising from very good to the exceptional. At age 24, Johnny Monis is a young talent, still trying to bring his culinary vision to focus, but DC needs more chef driven restaurants like Komi, boldly serving food that makes you think.