Tuesday, December 2, 2008

DC Holiday Eating, Out

Komi. Really good. Really expensive. Last year for the night after Turkey Day it was mini bar. Maybe it's something about small plates after a huge meal? Either way, this meal was equally spectacular. We went with the degustazione, mainly because I couldn't make the choices required if we had chosen smaller tasting menu (with the smaller menu you choose a pasta and a main, the larger, it's all up to the chef). Paired with three glasses of wine, me and the dining companion had to be rolled out of the place, albeit rolled out pretty sober. The meal took about 3.5 hrs. Here's what I remember (there are most likely some errors):

Starters (All served with one glass of an Austrian sparkling that I finished too early. Sadly, no refill.)

Amberjack (I think) sashimi in a smoked something broth - Super tiny slices of pristine fish. Really refreshing.

Oyster and sea urchin shooter style - I eat a lot of oysters, and have had my fair share of urchin. This was likely the best I've had of either.

Scallop chopped w/ tomato jam & carpaccio w/ mayo, dill, and julianne of black truffle - Both dishes were great and very fresh, of course, but I enjoyed the chopped presentation more. The mayo with the carpaccio was rich and for sure house made, but it was almost too rich for the sweet scallop. And the fine julianne of truffle didn't bring out the best of the truffles--it just made them kind of like crunchy little match sticks.

Salmon ceviche with something very cold and green and pine nuts - This dish possibly brought the staff's only gaffe on the evening. It was identified as fresh Alaskan King. Is that possible at this time of year? Either way it was great with pine nuts and had a nice saltiness.

Skate - Warm pieces with a fantastic sauce. This is when the dining companion and I realized that this place didn't do bread service. The bread wasn't missed, but it was a shame to leave some sauce on the plate. The place was a little too formal for plate licking.

Beef tartareQuenelle served with a tortilla-like chip. The chip was the first starch of the evening. Good tartare, but both the companion and I noted that the horse tartare at Frite Alors! was superior. The tartare at Frite Alors followed long flights and a very long walk, so that might have been a factor. Still this wasn't a standout, and I love raw meat.

Fried Caesar Salad - Like Au Pied de Cochon's foie gras cromesquis. This was a deep fried cube containing liquid caesar salad resting atop a silky anchovy puree. Had to be consumed in one bite, and that bite was awesome. Everything in the liquid was recognizable from the romaine lettuce to the parmesan cheese. Very cool dish and one of the highlights of the meal.

Other starters included a dish with smoked rapini (not a fan), some lightly smoked seafood thing (really good, can't remember details), and something with house peperoni (also really good). There was a lot to keep track of. I know I'm forgetting a few things because there were some really nice spicy dishes that aren't noted above. Both me and the companion (a spicy food eater) thought the heat, when there, was perfect.

Petit Fours – Liquid Cracker Jack shot, animal cracker (parmesan and sage?), goat cheese marshmallow smore, savory red pepper gummy, foie gras cream puff, and something else. Some things were better than others but everything was really enjoyable, particularly the cream puff.

Pastas

This was cool in that they served me and the companion different pastas. Mini raviolis and feta in a sweet maple sauce for me (I'm spacing on the pretty decent NY red served with my pasta) and mini linguini w/ house-made bacon for the companion (an Italian white for her). Both were really great, and we both preferred the others dish. Nice little portions, and at this point we were both pleasantly full.

Main (or, Bring out The Pig)

As mentioned on other blogs, here one of the servers brought out a hind quarter of a roasted suckling pig. If you look at the last post here, seeing a suckling hind quarter was kind of a relief for me. It was as if, as a prize for conquering four giant hams, I was rewarded with a little one. Anyway, the pig had a perfectly bronzed skin. The server took it back to the kitchen, and minutes later it returned, the ridiculously moist meat pulled and served with crispy squares of skin and house made pita-like bread. Accouterments included oregano salt (great), house made hot sauce (equally great), eggplant puree (eh), pineapple mustard (eh), and pickled fennel? (great). All served with an Oregon Pinot Noir. I love Oregon Pinots, in part for sentimental reasons, in part because they're awesome.

Wind Down

Cheese – Aged raw sheep's milk cheese with apple jam and a cracker. Spartan, not crazy, but nice.

Dessert – greek doughnuts w/ pastry filled w/ mascarpone chocolate mousse for the companion and chocolate cornmeal cake w/ biscotti for me. This was kind of a let down. I understand that it's hard to follow such a great meal, but after the petit fours demonstrated how well the kitchen did sweets these desserts were a bummer.

Coffee for a few bucks more? Sure. The companion had tea. About as satisfying as the dessert.

Pineapple/anise lollipop with the check. This was a great way to leave the place. A perfect ending. We even snuck them on the Metro.

As for that check, it's the reason I feel that it's fair to be critical. $451 for two when all was said and done. I didn't feel ripped off (I also wasn't paying), and the small place was packed (people without reservations were turned away), so who's to say the pricing is excessive. If I go back, and I would go back, I'd try the smaller prix fixe, as it just seems like the only difference is that you get a little less, and that would be okay as we were stuffed. The service was really outstanding--perfect balance between formal and comfortable. We were wearing jeans and sneakers--and not in the jet-set kind of way. We couldn't have been treated better.

How to follow that up? Lunch the next day at Joe's Noodle House. I've had mixed experiences here, and this was no exception. Szechuan green beans were great, but szechuan jerky not so enjoyable. Same with the duck tongues (Are you supposed to swallow the cartilage?) and chive pockets sans dipping sauce. I'll go back and get things like tofu w/ pork, but for the more adventurous items I'll wait until I get a good guide.

That evening it was dinner with the family at Chef Geoff's Lia's. Lia's is the total opposite of Komi. It's large, it's inexpensive (early dinner is $20 for a huge salad, huge entree, and huge dessert), and does not seem too concerned about portion control. At their prices it's not fair to be too critical about the food. I will say service was great and the menu was kind of exciting (I've never seen bottarga on a Cleveland menu, but it was on the very pedestrian Lia's.). Still, my puttanesca pasta was not very good.

If you've read this blog before it's pretty obvious that I'm a snob about anything food related (even if I wasn't holding this place up to anything near the standard that I was holding Komi to), so maybe I was too critical about the anchovies (which weren't gross) and olives (which were), but there's never any reason for noodles to be completely stuck together (even though I've experienced that in some of Cleveland's best places) as they were that evening. Those noodles did seem like they had potential, but the execution was poor. And the exciting sounding dessert special of maple gelato tasted like Aunt Jemima flavored ice cream. The espresso and vanilla were no better. But the family was happy and we were able enjoy each others company in an unpretentious setting. It's just that at $20 a head we could have gotten good Chinese takeout, or even eaten at Jaleo, with change to spare (maybe not at Jaleo, but it'd be close). But they did have Yuengling, so like with the Pinot at Komi, I was able to reminisce via alcohol about good times in places that I've long since left. Between the family chatter, of course.

1 comment:

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