January 1, 2013

Best Birthday Ever!

I gotta be honest here, I usually don't look forward to birthdays.  It comes so close to Christmas that it usually ends up being an afterthought.  When Kara told me she had a special surprise in store for me this year, I knew this birthday would be one of my favorites--especially since it was competing against previous years, like the year I was injured in hockey practice, or the time I had to work late, or in third grade when my mom told me she got me a girl present by mistake.

Any guesses what the surprise was?  I was perplexed too, but I figured it was food related (of course!) and I knew it would be amazing.  For Kara's birthday I took her to Rogue 24, and I could see she was determined to have another unforgettable meal together for my big day as well.

She certainly didn't disappoint...my first time dining at the legendary Komi! I figured it out when we got off at Dupont.  It had to be either Komi or Little Serow, and seeing that Little Serow doesn't take reservations, my intuitions proved correct.

For those of you not familiar with Komi here is a bit of a background.  It is a small, intimate, and personalized experience serving a Greek inspired, prix fixe menu, custom tailored to each tables preferences.  Reservations are hard to come by, only taking them a month in advance of the day you plan to go.  Don't be discouraged if you can't get through, keep redialing!  It took Kara and her mom 45 minutes to get through, using 4 different phones, and even then, our reservation was still at 8:45pm!

I was visibly excited when we sat down, and I needed a drink to settle in for the gastronomic journey ahead.  Kara and I are both really in to all the inventive craft brews around now, and are big fans of porters and stouts.  Luckily, Komi has a decent beer list.  In fact, we both opted for a couple of our tried and true favorites; her a Duck Rabbit Porter and me an Old Rasputin Imperial Stout.

Finally, the small plates started coming our way, and from the very first dish the bar was set extremely high.  Frequent readers of this blog can probably figure out some of my favorite ingredients from some of the stuff we've featured, raw seafood, truffles, exotic meats, classic pastas, and international fare.  Those were all featured prominently in this meal.  I thought Kara had tipped them off, but she insists it was all a happy coincidence that some of my favorite foods were served.

The first few courses were bite-size dishes, gradually increasing in size as we moved towards the main course.  Our first dish was a bite size, house made brioche with smoked trout roe.  It was reminiscent of lox and bagels but was a very clean tasting and fresh take on those flavors.  Next, we had Komi's modernist rendition of spanakopita.  Kara had been talking about this dish since she'd had it in May, and it certainly lived up to the hype.  Essentially, what arrived was a small, perfectly golden brown ball resembling a croquette.  We were advised to eat it in one bite, so we popped those suckers in our mouths, and were treated to an outpouring of creamy, hot spinach from inside.  The next treat to come our way was a slice of raw salmon.  What really stood out about this dish was just how fresh and buttery the fish was.  It's natural flavors took center stage in this preparation and the flesh was velvety and tender on the palate.

The next round of dishes were a bit larger and built some complex and unique flavors.  The scallop dish that followed was like Chef Johnny could read my mind, and was able to create flavor combinations that need careful precision to be successful.  It was raw scallop (yum), uni (one of my absolute favorites), shaved truffle (what, are you serious here!), and diced turnip for a little textural component.  The end result was food porn bordering on over the top that Kara would never allow me to create in our kitchen.  That course was followed up by a perfectly grilled and seasoned baby octopus.

Ok, hopefully you haven't  drooled all over your keyboards yet because the dishes kept on coming.  If you've seen our post on gnocchi you are probably aware that it is my top comfort food.  In fact, gnocchi was   one of the items I made the first time I cooked a meal for Kara.  These gnocchi were amazing.  Fortunately, I was able to capture a video of Kara's reaction upon tasting them.  They were so light and tasty, no heavy sauce was needed, just some brown butter, Parmesan and chives. Kara and I are both adventurous eaters, and as fans of terrines, pates, and offal meat, we excited when the next course was a rabbit liver mousse on a crostini.  Again, it was seasoned to perfection, and it was extremely creamy in contrast to the crunchy bread.

When you think about Greek Cuisine, it is hard to overlook that simple sandwich staple--the gyro.  In this sophisticated riff on the dish, the spit roasted lamb was upgraded to wagyu beef, and the topping was a generous slice of foie gras.  Our next plate brought some salty and sweet goodness to the table.  It was a carmelized medjool date stuffed with marscapone cheese and topped with some sea salt flakes.  Again, dates are a favorite of mine, and I recreated this dish for my family this holiday.

You're probably thinking, wow what a great meal, but it was about to get even better as they brought on the main courses. Our pasta course featured homemade pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu, topped with orange zest.  This dish was simple but delicious, and the pasta and lamb worked harmoniously together without either stealing the show.  The orange zest gave the dish a fresh, brightness to it as well.  The meal peaked with the next main course.  It was a wagyu beef short-rib, served a perfect medium rare.  Accompanying this were toasted pita, pickled fresno peppers, turnip mostarda, and housemade tzatiki.

That last course was truly a tough act to follow, but the 5 dessert courses were sweet bites that rounded out a perfect meal.  Our first dessert was some creamed honey complemented with a crunchy granola-like component.  That was followed by an amazing brown butter ice cream with cashews and a bruleed banana puree. It was reminiscent of bananas foster, and I could eat a pint of the brown butter ice cream.  It was so creamy, decadent, and delicious.  Next we were treated to plate of house made chocolates and toffees that were quite exquisite.  Last but not least, we were each given a root beer lollipop, which made a nice little treat the next day.

All in all, it was a birthday I'll never forget.

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