Johnny Monis, the culinary genius behind Komi, shreds and sautés in a shroud of mystique.
Even so, this month's opening of his subterranean Thai nook, Little Serow, took even his nosiest fans by surprise. The seven-course prix fixe menu of Issan food ($45) changes weekly. The techniques are smart and the food superb. Here's what we experienced during Little Serow's earliest days:
Hammers: What tastes like a marbled brisket is actually American Kobe flank steak that Monis' team whacks into new form. To achieve its well-charred suppleness, jin tuup is grilled to an easy rare, thunked with mallets, re-grilled and plated with bitter greens and galangal-tomato prik.
Cures: Korean food gets the nod for its kimchi, but Thai fermented cabbage incorporates fish sauce and sweet soy to complement Serow's fried radish cakes. Elsewhere, the chef conquers the earthiness of smoked mushroom salad with shavings of cured hen egg and a sprinkle of rice powder.
Leaves: A basket of raw vegetables and fresh herbs--including culantro and Thai basil--arrives at the meal's outset to enhance coming courses. Monis packs sai oua, a boisterous pork sausage, with the curry-citrus hybrid of kaffir lime leaves, then serves basil sprigs to balance each sliver. Even coconut sticky rice--reconsidered as dessert squares--arrives topped with mint.
Little Serow, 1511 17th St. NW (at Church St.); littleserow.com
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