Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Obviously, 2941 is out. While nothing to shake a stick at, it is not in the same class as the other contenders. Both Komi and CityZen offer originality, presentation and the all-important taste that in my opinion are unmatched in the city. CityZen gets high marks for constant cuisine that is unique and eye-opening. Komi boasts some of the best bites I've ever savored, but also some that I would have rather spit out.

So, which will it be? The consistent performer or the volatile rock star (sounding like American Idol yet)? I'll go with the risk-reward analysis and choose Komi, but this is a close call. Either now falls in my top-five-all-time-anywhere. The heights reached by Komi, however, give it the edge.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Part Three - Komi

I got an email the week after our visit, "How was Komi? Was it worth all the hype?". This is a thought-provoking question, indeed, but I can feel comfortable in answering in the affirmative. For our third celebratory occasion, we headed to the 17th Street top-ranked spot for a lovely, quiet evening. The spare, dim room focused our view on a bright and bustling kitchen to watch the show. Chef Johnny Monis, pacing and observing, makes it clear that the focus here is on the food.

Because it was my husband's birthday (I'm going to start calling him C, it will just make things easier), we felt no need to hold back and went for the full scale degustatione menu, including, by our count, twenty courses. Now, don't go thinking we are all out pigs; most of these were one bite plates. Faster and faster these messatakkia came, starting with crudos of turbit and shrimp. A scallop duo produced one delicious bite with truffle and bacon, and another rather disgusting bite, perhaps it was the sea urchin. We then turned our attention to a smooth and satisfying oyster, then a lovely steamed bun topped with trout roe and creme fraiche. The salmon tartare was typical, but nevertheless mouthwatering. Next, we were served a fried caesar salad bite (that's the best I can do to describe it), which was to be downed at once, with no plate provided to pace. While tasty, the warm burst of pureed greens encased in batter was a textural adventure, and maybe not a good one. Things started slowing sometime around when we were served a bed of micro greens served with hummus and octopus. After a brief break, we enjoyed my favorite of the messatakkia, hangar steak tartare served with a peppery black truffle ice cream. The savory petit fours signified the conclusion to the mezzatakias, but without declaring time for dessert. Not a bad selection in the bunch, including dates stuffed with marscapone (perhaps not the most innovative item on the menu, but still tasty), foie gras creme puffs, red pepper jellies, cheddar animal crackers, and goat cheese marshmallow s'mores. Yum....
For our chef-selected pasta courses, we were treated with braised beef cheek agniolette for the Mr., and eggplant ravioli for myself. My "sample" bite of the agniolette was pleasing, and given the speed at which my husband devoured the plate, I'd say he enjoyed the ear-shaped pastas himself. Served with pine nuts and remarkably intact snails, the flavors of my ravioli were very complimentary. The main course, meat with a capital M, was a substantial portion of roasted suckling pig - this course for two tells a story. First, the pig is presented whole then taken back to the kitchen for "prep", which involves breaking down the roast meat, removing the fat, and separating the crispy skin a la Peking Duck. This dish is served with pita and sauces and toppings including cabbage, oregano sea salt, eggplant puree, habanero sauce, and tsatziki. After two delicious "sandwiches" I had to throw in the towel, but C was not to be deterred. He made sure there was not a scrap of pork remaining on that plate.

As the evening began to decrescendo (mind you, about 2 hours in at this point), we turned our attention to the cheese course. When placing the reservation, we were asked about any dietary restrictions and I had made mention of the fact that C does not care for cheese. Not only did our servers discuss the various courses with us to make sure that the cheese content of each was acceptable, C's cheese course was thoughtfully replaced with texturized pineapple and vanilla coconut broth. Extra credit. On the other side of the table, I happily dove into my creamy Italian goat and sheep's milk selection served with brioche and honey. Good stuff. Finally, blissfully, dessert. First, we were served palate cleanser of mango puree, then a key lime aromatic with foam and crispies, and to conclude greek donuts to end all donuts. Ice cream, ganache, blood orange sauce, and szechaun caramel satisfyingly shared the plate with the sweet morsels of fried dough. What a perfection conclusion.

As C puts it, at Komi, "they don't mess around" - whether enough to unseed CityZen from the top spot of this competition, stay tuned.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Return from Hiatus

It's been a few weeks, and after giving up blogging to devote time to things for which I'd rather not be devoting time, I'm happy to be back. As previously promised, look forward to part three and the summary of my anniversary in three parts series. Plus, I hope to chime in on the lackluster Surfside, as well as the popular Potenza later this week.

It's a beautiful Friday afternoon. One of my favorite Friday afternoon customs when stuck in the office is to read DCist's "Overheard in DC" post...While some are more crude than others, it's always good for a laugh. Take my favorite from this week, for instance:

Earth Day at the coffee shop in the Univ. of Md. Student Union:

Two girls are decked out in green, sporting Earth Day face paint and discussing the success of the green rally they organized in spite of the rainy weather with a friend.

Girl to barista: "Do you have a plastic bag for that?"

You cannot make this stuff up! Gotta love it! I have two all-time favorite "Overheards" of my own. Some of you may remember these:

Mid-Afternoon on the New York Subway

Polite Homeless Man Asking for Money on the Number 1 Train: "Can you please spare some change?"

Sassy Woman in Response: "If you can say 'Can I have a dollar?', you can say, 'Welcome to McDonalds'!!"

(That one may have been little more cruel than funny.)

At Vietnamese restaurant in Arlington, three mid to late twenties men comparing the attractiveness of women dependent on their respective metro lines.

Guy 1: "I'm not sure she's Red-line caliber, but she's definitely better than Yellow."

Guy 2: "Wait, remember the other one?"

All Three in Unison: "Oh yeah dude, totally the hottest; totally Orange."

I won't insult anyone by revealing the misogynists' ranking system, but I'm glad I'm an Orange-line gal!! Whew, wouldn't want to have to get by on my brains or sense of humor! Hope this added a little laughter to your afternoon before you head out to enjoy the fabulous weather.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Two Birds, One Stone

Last Friday, Washington Business Journal shared the latest in the Murky Coffee Saga. Not only do I get to happily bid adieu to a foul-mouthed owner (seriously, who says "I'll punch you in the dick", let alone quote such a phrase on a business website?) and his band of lazy baristas-cum-groupees, but I also get to welcome creole cuisine to the neighborhood. I'm happy to to welcome an independent coffee shop that actually feigns to serve coffee to its paying customers. That, and I get beignets without trekking to 18th Street. Is a little chicory in our future too? Let's hope. Bayou Bakery is scheduled to open in Clarendon in the early summer.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ode to March Madness

With the final four facing off tonight in DEEEEtroit, I of course wanted to give a little love to the local areas boasting teams in this year's big dance. With favorite listings in East Lansing, Storrs, Villanova, and Chapel Hill as well as their local equivalents, you should have just enough time to grab treats before watching the games tonight (tip off is around 6:00 PM).

First, I should make it abundantly clear that I am totally and completely biased as to this year's seeds. I love me some Spartans (parents are MSU alums, grew up bleeding green, you get the point....). Whenever we visited campus, we had to stop at Spagnuolo's on Grand River Ave. (Yes, I realize that going with pizza as the food of choice on a college campus is totally chiche). With really cheap MI-style pizza (meaning thick crust and full of meat - by the way, in no way am I claiming that it rivals NY or Chicago-style), it didn't get better than Spag's. DC boasts different varieties of pizza, not so much MI-style, so I'll recommend either Italian Store for NY slices, or Vocelli for delivery pizza (really not bad). I'll skip an analysis of the multitude of artisanal shops. Really, who wants 2 Amy's when we are talking March Madness?

Penn State was the original, so I feel that UConn is a little bit of a copycat in hyping their Dairy Bar, but it does seem to be a Storrs favorite for Huskies fans. For ice cream in DC, you might as well switch to frozen custard, and head to Dairy Godmother. It doesn't get any better.

Villanova boasts Maia seafood market and restaurant. In DC, looks no further than the Maine Avenue waterfront market. Pick up rolls and chowder for lunch, along with a nice piece of flounder, halibut, or the like for dinner, and you'll be happily set.

Matt Barrett of Chapel Hill raves about the southern favorites at Crooks Corner, particularly the Shrimp and Grits. While not exactly a sports bar, either carry out an order or stop in at Johnny's Half Shell for happy hour to devour the $6 plate of BBQ shrimp and grits, served with those addictive herbed oyster crackers and sourdough. It's fantastic!

Ok, I'm headed out to pick up my snacks now. Go Spartans!!!