Saturday, December 06, 2014

Getting to eat all the things at Little Serow.

Since we returned from Seattle, it's been a pretty crap three months for anticipated meals.  When we found out that Little Serow was doing an all-seafood week, I was excited about going out to dinner for the first time in months.

I feel like a broken record whenever I rave about how much I love Johnny Monis's food, or how wonderful Anne1 and the rest of the Little Serow (and Komi) staff are in the front of the house, but he is just so talented.  For all the accolades that Johnny has gotten, we're baffled that he and his restaurants aren't more familiar outside D.C.  (Food loving friends from NYC or Chicago, for example, are usually unfamiliar with Komi until we drag them there on visits.)

So, dinner.  I showed up around 6:20 p.m. on Wednesday and was quoted 8:45-9:00.  Late but worth it, and in the end the text came at around 8:35 p.m.  (There were empty seats from about 9:00 to 9:15 on.)  The menu was $10 more than usual, featuring all new dishes.  (Anne explained at one point during service that Johnny had been playing around with these dishes for awhile, but it was cost prohibitive to include them in the regular menu -- hence the special, slightly higher priced week.)  I was practically giddy with anticipation.  (Adam, still not feeling great, was more along for the ride to indulge me, although he did a fair bit of eating in the end.)

First up, the gaap kai buu (coconut husk/mud crab/shrimp paste), smeared inside a wedge of burnt coconut husk, served with the usual sticky rice and basket of brightly colored raw leaves and sliced root vegetables.  We loved the wallop of crab, spice, and funk.  (Recalled happy childhood memories of deviled crabs, a very Tampa Cuban dish -- a sort of football shaped croquette of heavily spiced crab.)  We wouldn't relinquish the husk until the end of the meal; we kept returning to it between courses until we'd scraped up every bit.  I particularly liked it rolled with rice in a single basil leaf -- a bite-sized summer roll with the basil for fresh brightness and rice to cut the heat.  Paired nicely with the Beerlao Dark.

The second round included our favorite of the night: yum hoy khohm (snails/snakehead fish/rice paddy herb).  The first note of each bite of glass noodles and seafood was bright lime, which hurtled into spiciness -- which was expected, given the spatlese Riesling pairing.  (Adam said immediately that it read almost Italian, evocative of spaghetti with parmesan, basil, and tomato.)  Just an incredible, vibrant dish.  The rice powder on top (Adam's bizzaro parm) added a great je ne sais quoi -- I'm not sure what it would taste like on its own, but it was definitely adding dimension -- and the snails (of which we're often not really fans) created subtle, slightly chewy-rich pockets amid the more pronounced chunks of fish, noodles, and herbs (cilantro and rice paddy, i.e., the un-basil).  (Something in the sauce tasted vaguely tomato-y, but that could have just been our imaginations from the acidity and slight reddish hue of the sauce, which we ate with rice when the noodles disappeared.)

The khai luuk khoei (steamed eggs/tamarind/crispy anchovy) -- crunchy-crusted egg halves topped with miniscule fried anchovies and tamarind caramel -- arrived at the same time as the noodles, and we made the mistake of eating them first.  A tasty snack-like bite but not mind-blowing on their own, I think I would have appreciated the fudgy richness of the yolk more as a contrast to the acidity (and way to cut the spiciness) of the accompanying yum hoy khohm.  (Adam rightly noted that more even salting of the egg than was provided by the tiny anchovies would probably have been good.)

My second favorite of the night was the pla som (fermented fish/lobster roe/yellow bean).  Loved the creamy, coconut-heavy dipping sauce with the hot crispy fried catfish.  Paired with a delicious (funky, of course) Basque cider.

We also got an off-menu curry stirfry of shrimp, egg, lots of scallion, cilantro, and onion.  Really tasty, in a satisfying, comfort-foody sort of way; not spicy.  (I inadvertently ate a shrimp tail, having crunched through too much of it to do anything but swallow by the time I realized what it was!)

Unfortunately, the otherwise delicious coconut basmati rice that came with the hoy prik thai (clams/green peppercorns/lime leaf) was a bit overpowering for the delicate sauce on the kaffir-accented clams.  I preferred it with the regular sticky rice.  Good but probably my least favorite dish.  Enjoyed the Le Fin du Monde triple served with it.

Finally, the pla thua (whole fish/tamarind/basil) arrived, skin-on (although I removed it when I filleted the fish -- pretty competently, thanks to practice! -- because I'm not a fan of fish skin when it isn't crispy) and prettily strewn with chilies and basil.  Another delicate sauce -- lemongrassy? -- that was lovely with the moist white fish, but not as exciting as the rice noodles had been.

We ended with fascinatingly strange little pastry knots, salty-sweet with garlic, fish sauce, and palm sugar, and a bizzaro bubble tea of sweet coffee with tapioca pearls.  (Extremely surprisingly, I did not hate the coffee and, in a lifetime first, actually drank all of mine!)  Adam ordered the sweet rice milk, which was a great dessert drink but would have been good to cut the spice earlier in the meal.  I took a server's recommendation to order a glass of an interesting, just-sweet-enough-for-dessert Jurançon.  A great meal, but I missed the sticky rice petit four at the end . . .

1. In acknowledgement of our pescatarianism (and Komi's apparently amazing record-keeping), Anne emailed Adam last week to flag the special menu, because she is awesome. AND she spelled my name correctly!

Week of December 2, 2014
gaap kai buu
coconut husk / mud crab / shrimp paste
yum hoy khohm
snails / snakehead fish / rice paddy herb
khai luuk khoei
steamed eggs / tamarind / crispy anchovy
pla som
fermented fish / lobster roe / yellow bean
hoy prik thai
clams / green peppercorns / lime leaf
pla thua
whole fish / tamarind / basil

eXTReMe Tracker