100 Best Restaurants 2011: Komi

No. 1

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

Washington’s food scene has come full circle: One of the best things on the menu at the best restaurant in town is . . . a half-smoke? But this is a half-smoke unlike any other, a wonderfully spicy and greaseless sausage tucked into a griddled, buttered bun and topped with ramp relish. The sommelier pairs it with an IPA.

The cooking coming out of this Dupont Circle rowhouse might taste like a four-star restaurant’s, but the place doesn’t feel like one. Decor means a few wrought-iron sconces. Servers joke with customers, laugh with ponytailed chef/owner Johnny Monis in the kitchen, and sneak sips of wine—yet they’re among the smartest and most attentive in the city.

There are just 12 tables, and the only dining option is an 18-to-22-course dégustation for $125 a person (soon rising to $135). There’s no menu. The sole decision customers make is whether to get the $68 wine pairing. (The restaurant is happy to let couples split it.)

Meals begin with a parade of bites, which mostly highlight raw fish—king-salmon belly with shiso sorbet and candied pine nuts, creamy-sweet sea urchin with mustard butter and potato bread—and show off Monis’s imagination and precision. The plates gradually get bigger until reaching a glorious crescendo: either spit-roasted baby goat or a bronze-skinned leg of suckling pig. Both are served communally, straight from the oven, with pita and such accents as hot sauce, oregano salt, and tzatziki. Basically, it’s the makings of a gyro. But as with that half-smoke, it’s unlike any other.

Also good: Scallop tartare with beet and wasabi; sliced scallop with red quinoa; mascarpone-stuffed date; rice-pudding arancini with sweet-potato marmalade. Monis is apt to throw, say, a goat-liver ragu into the mix, which might challenge some diners.

Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.

>> See all of 2011's Best Restaurants

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.